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While most Israeli Jews avoid eating leaven during Passover, about half oppose law forbidding it in hospitals

Recent poll results mirror the political and religious divisions in Israeli society

Workers prepare matzah, traditional unleavened bread eaten during Passover, in Jerusalem, Mar. 29, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Almost one in two Israeli Jews are in favor of permitting hametz, food with yeast, in hospitals, during the annual eight-day Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, according to an Israel Democracy Institute poll. 

Observant Jews follow the Passover regulations forbidding the eating of leavened bread or having it in their homes during the holiday, which commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and emergence as a nation. 

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, recently passed a law blocking individuals from bringing hametz into hospitals during the seven-day commemorative feast. The Israel Democracy Institute poll found that 48% of Israeli Jews are in favor of permitting leavened food to be brought into hospitals, while only 44% are opposed. 

The poll results mirror the political and religious divisions in Israeli society. Some 72% of individuals who back the primarily religious and right-wing Netanyahu government support forbidding hametz products during Passover. By contrast, 77% of individuals who voted for opposition parties were against the legislative intervention. 

Nothing is black and white in the complex Israeli society. The poll further revealed that about 71% of Israeli Jews avoid eating hametz products during Passover. This means that many Israelis who are typically non-observant choose to refrain from eating leavened food during the eight days.

At the same time, the poll reveals that almost 50% of Israeli Jews oppose the hametz law, for reasons that could include support for individual autonomy, a deference to the multiethnic populations that work in or utilize healthcare platforms, or other reasons. 

According to the new law, a hospital director will need to “take into consideration the rights and needs of patients” before deciding on whether to prohibit hametz food. 

While five of the six political parties that comprise the government coalition are religious, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not religiously observant himself. Netanyahu and his wife were criticized for eating at a non-kosher restaurant recently during their official visit to London.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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