Anger as Pe­sach sale of chametz is le­galised

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

SHOPS AND restau­rants in Is­rael will be al­lowed to sell chametz next week over Pe­sach fol­low­ing a se­ries of le­gal de­ci­sions in Jerusalem.

The rul­ing that restau­rants in Jerusalem would not have to pay mu­nic­i­pal fines for sell­ing un­leav­ened prod­ucts dur­ing Pe­sach 2007 — since the law for­bid­ding the sale of chametz only men­tioned “pub­lic dis­play” — has an­gered re­li­gious politi­cians and ac­tivists.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Me­nachem Mazuz an­nounced that the state would not be ap­peal­ing, adding that the judge’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion “con­firmed the state’s po­si­tion for years, that the law deals with main­tain­ing the pub­lic spa­ces in Is­rael over Pe­sach, as a Jewish state, with­out un­nec­es­sar­ily in­fring­ing civil rights and re­li­gious free­dom”.

De­spite the “chametz law” of 1986 for­bid­ding the pub­lic sale of un­leav­ened prod­ucts in neigh­bour­hoods with a Jewish ma­jor­ity, few lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have ever en­forced the law. While most shops in the Jewish sec­tor sell only chametz-free food over Pe­sach, there are still hun­dreds of restau­rants, delis and a few bak­eries that con­tinue man­u­fac­tur­ing and sell­ing chametz.

How­ever, in re­cent years, Jerusalem City Hall, con­trolled since 2003 by ul­tra-Ortho­dox mayor Uri Lupo­lian­ski, has sent its in­spec­tors to levy fines for mi­nor in­fringe­ments. This year, for the first time, Jerusalem City Hall pressed charges against them through the lo­cal courts.

The judge’s rul­ing not only set a prece­dent, but its tim­ing also left the re­li­gious par­ties un­able to push through an amend­ment clos­ing the “pub­lic dis­play” loophole be­fore this Pe­sach. The ul­tra-Ortho­dox politi­cians roundly at­tacked Mr Mazuz for “de­stroy­ing the Jewish iden­tity of the state” and the Shas leader, Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Eli Yishai, vowed that “the peo­ple of Is­rael can rest as­sured, we will pass the ap­pro­pri­ate leg­is­la­tion, by next year there will be no pos­si­bil­ity what­so­ever to sell chametz”.

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