Why isn’t Health Minister Litzman resigning?

It has been announced that the government has decided to cut 22 billion NIS across the board from ministries over the next 20 years. The monies saved will primarily be used to fund additional payments to police officers and prison guards, but will also help finance the Eurovision Song Contest due to be held in Israel next year.

In response, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has warned that such cuts “could bring about the destruction of the Israeli health system.” On the assumption that this is really the case and that Litzman is not exaggerating, then this is surely a case of pikuach nefesh, where lives will be put at risk as a result of such a course of action.

It was only a year ago that Litzman told the prime minister that he would resign from the cabinet if work was undertaken by Jews on Israel Railway trains on Shabbat.

Litzman is good at making such threats. When an IDF Draft bill was proposed that would have imposed financial sanctions upon yeshivot to encourage the drafting of ultra-Orthodox students to undertake military service, he threatened to quit the coalition were the bill to be passed into law.

What puzzles me is why Litzman should threaten resigning on issues related to the military drafting of yeshivah students and the carrying out of railway maintenance work on Shabbat, but is not similarly motivated when it comes to a government decision to cut Israel’s health services.

After all, every school child in Israel knows that Jewish tradition teaches that saving life takes precedence over Sabbath observance. Therefore, if, as Litzman suggests, the budgetary cuts “could bring about the destruction of the Israeli health system,” why isn’t he resigning now?

About the Author
Rabbi Boyden was educated and received his rabbinical ordination in London, England. Having served as the rabbi of Cheshire Reform Congregation for thirteen years, he made aliyah with his family in 1985. He has established Reform congregations in Ra'anana and Hod Hasharon and previously served as director of the Israel Reform Movement's Beit Din.
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