The Knesset on Monday held a special session to discuss the ruling of Judge Tamar Bar Asher-Tzabann, of the Jerusalem Municipal Court, which decreed that the indictments against four restaurant owners charged with selling bread and leavened goods on Passover be scrapped.
The session was called by MK Shmuel Halpert (United Torah Judaism), who deemed the ruling "utterly offensive": "The unthinkable has happened in Israel. This judge thinks she can just take on one of the holiest subjects in Judaism… her ruling is utterly offensive to the Jewish character of the State of Israel.
"Not only did she distort the Halacha, she distorted the laws o the State, granting the word 'public' a completely unreasonalve meaning.
"The decision has no legal merit," added Halpert, "and it may trip thousands into eating leavened, God forbid. The quasi-sophisticated interpretation she found goes against the legislators' meaning and offends both the Jewish nature of Israel and the status-quo."
'Decision detached from reality'
"It seems the court got a bit confused," said National Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev at the meeting.
"I can only regret this decision, which completely detached from reality, caused such an unnecessary quarrel between the 70% of the public who are not interested in eating bread during the holiday and those selling it in spite, for mere profit.
"I wonder," he continued, "how we would have reacted if a municipal judge would have ruled that opening restaurants on the Remembrance Day, or the Holocaust Memorial Day, saying that if it is indoors, it can't bother anyone. Would we stand for that? We would have an uprising on our hands. No judge in his right mind would dare render such a ruling."
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, concluded Orlev, "must put this genie back in its bottle in a hurry and appeal the decision."
Knesset Member Yossi Beilin (Meretz) was less that impressed with the supposed harm to Judaism: "I say to the religious people in this house, this is a golden opportunity for you to drop your historic mistake. Don’t try to force us to do things because any religious coercion of this kind will only distance us from you."
Meretz fellow MK Zahava Gal-On reiterated: "The Passover Bread Ban Act shouldn't be amended it should be annulled," she said. "Since when does the entire Jewish identity depend on eating bread on Passover? I respect people's right to believe and keep kosher on Passover, but I also respect people's right to go into a private establishment and eat whatever they want. Coercion is not what Israel is about."
"I don't eat bread in Passover and neither do my children," said Labor's MK Ophir Pines-Paz. "Nevertheless, the Bread Ban Act does little to ban bread and since it was introduces more and more people do eat bread on Passover.
"The judge who rendered the ruling is a religious woman. The problem lies with the wording of the law. It in unenforceable and everyone knows it… we have to have a serious discussion on the proper way to maintain heritage and tradition not through coercion."
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik said that she believed the issue should be decided on in house, and not by the attorney general, as suggested MK Orlev. "It is up to the House. The judicial system should be making these kinds of decisions," she said.