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Bring out your bread!

by michael April 05 2008
Municipal newsFood

Oh, there are going to be some tasty riots this Passover.

Israeli law technically forbids the sale or display of leavened products during the weeklong Passover holiday (at least in majority-Jewish areas). The law is rarely enforced by the government, but in some cities - particularly Jerusalem - it's often enforced by mobs of extremely angry ultra-Orthodox Jews. The downtown restaurants that flaunt their leaven - Riff-Raff, Iwo's, Chili's Pizza and Bohlinat most prominently, although there are others - have been the target of Charedi protests, and a crowd of black-hat stone throwers memorably attempted an assault on Chili's last Passover.

Well, now those who tremble before the Lord have even more reason to let the missiles fly at all the sinfully yeasty goodness: the legal ban against leaven has been lifted.


The Jerusalem court ruling on Thursday that Israeli stores and eateries can sell hametz over Pessah infuriated religious leaders and lawmakers who bemoaned it as a blow to Israel's Jewish identity.

The decision by the Court for Local Affairs, which was handed down late Wednesday, two weeks before the holiday, was lambasted by the Chief Rabbinate as "an attack on the Torah" and was immediately condemned by haredi and Modern Orthodox lawmakers, who vowed to appeal it.

A largely unenforced 1986 law bans the public display of leavened products for sale or consumption during the weeklong holiday.

"The prohibition against seeing or having possession of hametz on Pessah is not subject to [secular] legal interpretation," said Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger. "The court's decision is an attack on Israel's Torah. I am sorry that the court 'passed over' Jewish law."

Somewhat bizarrely, nobody, no matter how Orthodox, seems to mind seeing leavened products during Passover anywhere except Israel.

Ultimately, beyond the smog of the inevitable trash-bin burning in Meah Shearim and Geulah, the repeal of the chametz law probably won't make a noticeable difference in the city. Most restaurants either go kosher for Passover or close down during the holiday not because of force of law, but because of tradition; the freedom to display chametz is unlikely to change that.

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