Sometimes, folks just don't learn. See today's Haaretz.
For the past couple of weeks, there has been the annual brouhaha about selling chametz during Passover. Chametz is more than just a slice of bread -- it is EVERY kind of edible item NOT marked with a "kosher for Passover" label.
Most, if not nearly all, Jewish Israelis attend some kind of Passover Seder. It's a lot like Thanksgiving Dinner for Americans. There's a traditional meal, and usually some kind of ceremonial, although it can range from 30 seconds flat ("Why is this night different from all other nights? Let's eat!") to what Hollywood would describe as a Major Production with an All Star Cast.
The holiday is also a bit like Christmas. Israelis hit the shops with a vengeance. Most get some form of gift or gift certificate from their employers. My youngest daughter and I were in Home Center two days ago and were lucky to escape with our lives. Gift giving isn't de rigueur but not far from it. I will undoubtedly wind up with several more glass vases I'll never use and yet another set of wine glasses by the end of the week. Whereas Christians mob the mental health hotlines around Christmas, Jews are more likely to get depressed over the Passover holiday.
This year Passover begins on Saturday night, immediately following the exit of the Sabbath. This makes it a real nightmare, in Jewish Law, for those who are strictly observant, because one MUST eat bread on Friday night and Saturday noontime (don't ask me what the exact hour for the last bite of pita is, because I don't know, but I assure you there is one, right down to the second) but one is absolutely forbidden to have chametz in one's "possession" on Passover. Trust me, you don't want to know more about this burning issue, although actually, burning (or not burning) is actually part of the problem. Further, the observant housewife has to plan for the three normal Sabbath meals, the Seder meal, and the meals to be eaten on Sunday, all of which must be prepared in advance since cooking is forbidden. (Emergency rooms will see those whose preparations were less than perfect by Sunday night, as gastroenteritis and food poisoning get a grip)
But not all Israelis are Jewish. At least 20% of the population, in fact. And until recent years, those Jewish Israelis who wanted a felafel in a pita could go to places like Jaffa or other Arab villages to eat without any problem. Most Jewish restaurants which care about their kosher certificates close for the entire week of the holiday, although increasingly it pays for them to offer Passover menus (a huge undertaking, since it requires changing dishes and pots, etc.) and of course there are plenty of restaurants in Israel who don't bother being kosher at all anyway.
Then the Kashrut Nazis (that is, the religious parties in the Knesset) managed to get a law passed requiring supermarkets to cover all the shelves containing non-Kosher for Passover items during the week, to make disinterested Jews into better ones, and non-Jews totally bewildered. (I've often wondered, does eating the kosher meal provided on an El Al flight give a non-observant Jew "Brownie points" in Heaven?)Inevitably, by the end of the week, the paper or plastic wrappings over the shelves containing such sinful things as flour and yeast (or even instant coffee that doesn't have the right sticker on it) are in tatters. I don't know what supermarket managers think of this charade: so much purchasing is done beforehand (the observant will literally replace everything, including toothpaste and cooking spices, as well as cleaning substances) that business is slow anyway during the intermediate days of the holiday. But they do have to pay staff to stay late just prior to the holiday to cover all the offending items up.
So this year, the law was challenged. And, predictably, the head of one of the most religious political parties has now declared that he intends to seek a law forbidding the sale of chametz absolutely, making it impossible for even a Moslem or a Christian to have a felafel in a pita too.
My paternal grandfather was a teetotaler. Out really out of any ideological or religious conviction (he was an ordained Episcopalian minister, but preferred to work as an auto mechanic), but because he didn't like the effect alcohol had on him. But my father never forgot the day his Dad brought home a bottle of whiskey and gathered his entire family around him. After pouring himself a generous tot, and downing it in a gulp, he announced, "No damn government is going to tell me what I may or may not drink!" It was the day Prohibition came into force in the US.
Dear Mr. Yishai: No damn government is going to tell me whether I may eat chametz or not. Get a law passed prohibiting the sale or display of all chametz, and there will be bread on my Seder table (if only for show)! With "friends" like you, attempting to force observance by coercion, we ordinary Jews don't need don't need any other enemies. Please go count your tzitzit, or something, and stay out of my kitchen. I don't force you to eat treif, don't force me to eat matzah (which, by the way, I love).
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