Kosher Food Proviso Written into New Health Insurance Law Govt. Crisis Avoided

The new Health Insurance Law which the government plans to send to the Knesset this week will include a provision stipulating kosher food in hospitals catering to Jewish patients. Justice Minister Yaacov Shimson Shapiro presented the draft clause at today’s Cabinet meeting and in so doing averted a threatened coalition crisis with the National Religious Party.

The NRP had demanded that the new law provide for kosher food, and the party refused to accept Labor Ministers’ contention that kosher food was served anyway in all hospitals under a tacit agreement in effect for 40 years. The Labor Ministers, particularly Shapiro and Health Minister Victor Shemtov, claimed that a special provision in the law would be an unwarranted extension of the “status quo” which has governed Israel’s religious life for years.

But with the Aguda Israel factions pressing on the right flank and the elections approaching the NRP-could not accept these arguments and threatened a Cabinet crisis by opposing the Health Insurance Bill in the Knesset this week. The Labor Party gave in and under Shapiro’s clause all hospitals with a majority of Jewish patients must serve kosher foods. Jewish patients can ask for an receive other food–as can Jewish patients in hospitals with a majority of non-Jewish patients.

The Health Insurance Bill provides that all Israelis must be insured under one of the existing sick funds with the premiums deductible from their pay checks, like national insurance.

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