Israel's Knesset Debates Controversial Court Ruling Allowing Sale of Bread During Passover

Israel's Knesset began debate Monday on a court ruling allowing the sale of bread and other forbidden foods during Passover week.

The special session, which interrupted the Knesset recess, was called to debate a ruling that appeared to green-light the sale of foods forbidden on Passover. Jewish law forbids the sale and consumption of leavened bread and a range of other foods beginning on Passover, which begins this year on April 19.

Knesset Speaker Dahlia Itzik declared that the issue of selling bread and other religiously prohibited foods is for the Knesset to decide, not the courts.

"The issue at hand belongs to the Knesset and not to the courts," she said. "It is this Knesset that must decide."

The special session was called by Shmuel Halpert, leader of the United Torah Judaism party, who said that eating forbidden foods was a sin punishable by death or excommunication, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Jerusalem Municipal Court Judge Tamar Bar Asher-Zaban ruled recently that Israeli law permitted selling non-Passover foods, such as bread, in groceries, restaurants and pizzerias during the Passover holiday. The judge said the businesses included in her ruling were not considered "public" places by law, the newspaper reported.

Immediately after the ruling, various religious parties in the Knesset proposed a a bill intended to neutralize the ruling.

The Knesset met Sunday to discuss the proposal, but the attempt to change the ruling failed, the newspaper reported.

Trade Minister Eli Ishai, head of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Shas party, insisted that the powerful religious parties will continue their efforts to try to change the law.

Ishai told the newspaper that Israelis consider the selling of forbidden Passover food "repellent" and that the public will surely ignore the "bizarre" court decision.