The Religious Politics of Swine Flu

Government discussions come and go; often people seldom care what is being discussed; political channels like C-Span are not known for their high ratings. However, in Israel, government discussions at the Knesset are often the kind of material that a Jay Leno or a Saturday Night Live or Mad T.V. comedy writing team would definitely consider using as a part of their programming. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

The defacto Health Minister, MK Rabbi Yakov Litzman, went on public record saying that the “Swine Flu” would be from here on in referred to as “Mexico Flu,” as pork is non-kosher and considered unclean under Jewish law.  Was he being serious? Of course! We need not look at Saudi Arabia or Iran for religious or pontifical declarations—all we need to do is look in our very own backyard!

According to an editorial in the Ha’Aretz News, ‘Haredi government minister gone wild’ comment that makes for great office banter, the truth is that it’s just one more in a series of state-sanctioned declarations by a government official that serves only to further humiliate Israel in the eyes of the world.” Yes, let’s give our kudos to Netanyahu—that’s what happens when religious fanatics are allowed to be a part of the government.

Politics and religion is a lot like meat and milk in the Torah; each one by itself is permitted, but when mixed, they become a forbidden mixture! Politics and religion functions much the same way. By itself, religion is fine as is politics (when the politicians behave themselves!), but when we mix religion and politics–we end up with a draconian combination that only serves to oppress the people! And the writer further explains:

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. 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?

As I read the article, I found myself laughing at the Rabbi’s lack of wisdom. Nowhere in the Torah does it say that swine is “treif” (attacked by an animal of prey);  it is simply “ta’me”  (”unclean”) and even this kind of designation does not make it an evil creature. The ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel once had a similar reaction once when they found out they were getting porcine insulin that derives from pork derivatives. Continue reading “The Religious Politics of Swine Flu”