The amended 'Chametz Law' is slated to be passed by the Knesset before the upcoming Passover holiday. No less than 24 members of Knesset, some of them from the opposition, have joined the Shas initiative to amend the law such that displaying chametz, or leavened food, in any business will be prohibited during the holiday. About one third of the Kadima faction supports the move.
As was first revealed in Ynet, the Shas faction recently decided to make an effort to push through the amendment in an expedited process before the springtime holiday. The bill was placed on the Knesset's table in May by Shas Faction Chairman MK Avraham Michaeli.
Chametz refers to any kind of food that has undergone a leavening process. The prohibition to consume or benefit in any way from chametz is one of the central observations of the Passover holiday.
Ynet has learned that Shas contacted MKs from other factions requesting that they support the bill as initiators. The bill will be resubmitted Friday. With this, Shas hoped to deflect some of the flack for the initiative away from Shas and onto other factions sharing in the responsibility for the bill.
Michaeli confirmed the details in a conversation with Ynet, and said, "This is not just a law for haredim, but for Jews. We want to add more MKs who will support the bill and later resubmit it so that it will be clear that it is not Shas' desire alone."
Yet, it seems that Shas did not foresee the extent of the bill's success. No less than 24 MKs are signed on the new bill. Nine of them are members of the opposition faction, Kadima, including: Otniel Schneller, Ze`ev Boim, Yulia Shamalov Berkovich, Israel Hasson, Arie Bibi, Shlomo Molla, Eli Aflalo, and Jacob Edery. An additional five Likud members are also signatories to the bill.
'We don't want to see chametz on Passover'
MK Yoel Hasson explained why he supports the bill: "Even under my basic belief that a person can do whatever he wishes in his own home, I think that during the Passover holiday, it is fitting that public places, small and large, not sell chametz openly. I believe that one of the central struggles we are grappling with as a society is to maintain Israel as a country with a Jewish character that preserves Jewish tradition, not out of coercion, but out of accepting the norms of the Jewish tradition."
In response to the question whether he believes Kadima voters support this law, Hasson said, "In tests done on the Israeli public, it was found that a majority of the Israeli public does not eat chametz on Passover, nor would they want to sit in a restaurant or enter a store in which chametz products are flaunted."
It should be noted that MK Ze'ev Boim's office reported Thursday that Boim plans on removing his signature from the bill due to statements made Wednesday regarding the sale of chametz on Passover.
MK Schneller explained how amendment being suggested by the current bill. According to the bill, the wording of the law will changed from "openly" to "in a public place." According to him, "This is a correct and fitting balance that returns the situation to how it was for dozens of years. Everyone should agree with this law."
In the explanation of the bill, it is written, "The definition of the term 'openly' by the court, as it refers to sales at a stall in the public domain only, distorts the legislative intention and creates an absurdity by which a large store, such a supermarket through which thousands of people pass, is allowed to display chametz, whereas a stall for selling pitas or bagels in a dark alley is prohibited from selling (chametz). In order to remove all doubt regarding the legislative intention, instead of the word 'openly,' 'in a public place' will be written. As such, displaying chametz at every place of business open to the masses will be prohibited."
The bill's initiators said that according to the law as it currently stands, a prohibition to sell or consume chametz products would not apply to areas such as a town in which a majority of the residents or a majority of the local council members are not Jewish or within a joint town."