Acting Israeli Health Minister Yakov Litzman has renamed the H1N1, or swine flu, outbreak for religious reasons.
“We will call it Mexican flu. We won’t call it swine flu,” said Mr Litzman, who belongs to the ultra-religious United Torah Judaism party.”
While this may seem like just a bit of hilarious window-dressing for uptight religious people, a writer for the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, claims it bespeaks of a wider social and political problem, that of the steadily diminishing separation between synagogue and state.
I do think Benjamin Hartman has a point:
“The blame ultimately lies at the feet of Benjamin Netanyahu and the glorious parliamentary democracy that makes Israel increasingly unstable and ungovernable. Israel is blessed by a voting system where if you don’t secure a majority, your only recourse is to cobble together a coalition with whichever fellow travelers and fringe parties will agree to sit with you, get the stamp of approval from the president, and then settle accounts with your coalition partners, now waiting in the shadows with a list of demands. While it has been established that Litzman did not want to be named deputy health minister (and with the lack of a superior, the acting head of the ministry), the fact is that under the demented Legoland makeup of Israel’s governing system, ministerial seats are assured to those who broker the deals, no matter how horribly ill-suited they may be to the post.”
And horribly suited he surely is! Litzman’s situation is symptomatic of a growing issue within the Knesset:
“Such is the system that produces a government where a party representing a community whose media cannot print the word “sex”, airbrushes women out of photos, and binds them into a strict second-class status, can be put in charge of the Health Ministry, a ministry legally bound to protect the well-being of all Israelis, regardless of gender, race or religion. It also brings up the issue putting a man who can’t say the word “vagina” in charge of a ministry that supervises gynecological issues. How can a man whose usage of the Hebrew language is governed by his own interpretation of Jewish law deal with issues like teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, or post-natal care for women?”