Israel, Mishegas

Swine flu not kosher in Israel


JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Swine flu? Not in the Jewish state.
“We will call it Mexico flu. We won’t call it swine flu,” Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, a black-garbed Orthodox Jew, told a news conference Monday, assuring the Israeli public that authorities were prepared to handle any cases.
Under Jewish dietary laws, pigs are considered unclean and pork is forbidden food — although the non-kosher meat is available in some stores in Israel.

This is completely ridiculous. If the logic is “swines aren’t kosher, treyf is bad,” wouldn’t a “bad” connotation be fitting for a deadly flu virus? Oh, Israel…

49 thoughts on “Swine flu not kosher in Israel

  1. It should be noted that this douche is the most senior appointee in the Health Ministry for the Netanyahu government.

  2. This is more than stupid, it cannot help but produce negative feedback against Israel from Mexican authorities, including the country’s ambassador to Israel, and may indeed have negative repercussions against Mexican Jews and their communities and communal institutions. Aren’t these serious considerations by the Israeli authorities?
    Hmm, from the wikipedia entry on Swine Flue*:
    Avian influenza virus H3N2 is endemic in pigs in China and has been detected in pigs in Vietnam, increasing fears of the emergence of new variant strains.[10] Health experts[who?] say pigs can carry human influenza viruses, which can combine (i.e. exchange homologous genome sub-units by genetic reassortment) with H5N1, passing genes and mutating into a form which can pass easily among humans.[11] H3N2 evolved from H2N2 by antigenic shift.[12] In August 2004, researchers in China found H5N1 in pigs.[13] Measured resistance to the standard antiviral drugs amantadine and rimantadine in H3N2 in humans has increased[14] to 92% in 2005.[15]
    Chairul Nidom, a virologist at Airlangga University’s tropical disease center in Surabaya, East Java, conducted an independent research; he tested the blood of 10 apparently healthy pigs housed near poultry farms in West Java where avian flu had broken out, Nature reported. Five of the pig samples contained the H5N1 virus. The Indonesian government has since found similar results in the same region. Additional tests of 150 pigs outside the area were negative.[16][17]

  3. Namecalling, Jason? For this? Come on.
    You got your free punch at bibi. You finished, buddy?
    Feygele, I agree it’s moronic, but it’s also so ridiculously pathetic to have to post this as some sort of weird story indicative of Israel, or for me to leave a comment on the post of a story like this… ugh… i’m gonna take a shower.
    There are problems in the world.
    Let’s get a move on em.

  4. For the record, feygele posted the ENTIRE Reuters story. There it is, two blurbs make a story these days.
    The part associating pigs/treyf with the flu is not in quotes. It could just be the idiotic kind of “helpful” remark made by reporters who don’t know any better but wish to impress the global audience with their far reaching knowledge.
    Maybe there are perfectly good reasons for naming it Mexican flu instead of swine flu, like the fact that it comes from Mexico, and thus people or goods of Mexican origin should get greater scrutiny. Or that Israel has very few pigs, so people will think they are safe when really they are in danger like everyone else.
    Maybe we would know the reason for Israel calling it Mexican flu, except that it’s a TWO BLURB story without any explanation or even basic cursory investigation.
    I’m taking that shower now.

  5. Come on. This guy has no experience as a public health official, no experience in medicine, and no experience with epidemics or pandemics. He’s a UTJ MK who was appointed to the post as part of coalition negotiations between Likkud and UTJ. His main experience is as the head of a yeshiva and as the Gerrer Rebbe’s right hand man.
    The reporter may not have done a good job of drawing the proper connection, but it’s pretty clear that this guy has decided to change the name of a flu virus because swine are treif.
    And this is what happens when you elect a guy who lets UTJ hold seats like deputy health minister. Maybe they should be working harder on keeping the virus out of Israel then on whether or not it’s named after a treif animal.

  6. ML–
    Move to Israel and vote for better candidates then. Israel would be a much, much better place if 100,000 people who think like you would move there…but you won’t…so things won’t change.

  7. You Israelis want this guy crafting health policy for you and your children?
    You Americans want Obama, a state congressman and one term senator crafting health, foreign, defense, transportation, energy, environment, tax, welfare… policy for you and your children? Who should be scared more, us of a Deputy Health Minister or you of a President who is preparing for his “most difficult confrontation” not with Iran, not with Venezuela, not with China, not with Russia, but with Israel!
    His main experience is as the head of a yeshiva and as the Gerrer Rebbe’s right hand man.
    You should really get out more. Wikipedia is not the only source of information available. Anyone can see the bent to this story and your responses. This “black-garbed Orthodox Jew” has been in the Knesset since 1999!
    Anyone can also see that the response by some of you to this so called story is exactly the reason why it was written. Why is a person’s “garb” and religious affiliation the focus of a story about a government’s response to a health issue? Who cares what the Deputy Health minister recommends a disease is called?
    After what, two weeks in the health portfolio, Litzman has been fully briefed on it, and in other parts of the same press meeting gave details on Israeli stockpiles of retrovirals and other steps being taken to insulate Israel from the epidemic.
    Somehow, those comments didn’t make it into the story, because that’s not the story they wanted to write, and it’s not the story you wanted to read.

  8. It gets better.
    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?

  9. only when it comes to ISrael do people say- why don’t you come to Israel and change things! Have you ever complained about Sudan or China? Well why don’t you move there and change things? HAve a problem with Achmadinejad? Move there and protest!
    WHy can’t someone just think that a policy is idiotic (or for that matter, the deputy minister himself) without being made to feel guilty that they could make things better?

  10. Yael,
    I’m generally not the one who using that argument, but there are 2 clear differences between Israel and the countries that you gave in comparison – China, Iran, and Sudan. First, Israel is – depending on how cynical you might be – slightly more democratic than those places, and perhaps more influenced by what large amount of the people living there (it has to be enough of them) think about governmental policy, and 2) being that I’m assuming that you’re a Jew, you can actually take part in that democracy a lot more fully than you can in the other countries you mentioned. I think a great deal of us will admit that many Jews outside of Israel feel the need to comment about the country, the government, the people, etc – I think that’s great, and quite understandable. But that’s far different than when people talk about something in China.

  11. I wrote a blog connected to this issue at:
    You who blame the Deputy Health Minister (since he is non-Zionist he refuses to be an actual Minister) know not what you do.
    In Judaism we have a concept of “Tinok Sh”Nishba.” The Deputy Minister grew up in an environment that denied him the ability to think critically about complex issues that go beyond Talmudic discussion.
    Can we fault him for his lacking education and his desire to keep the rest of Israel in the dark ages?
    Two main things effect a person – genetics and environment. His parents provided both. Let us blame them. 🙂

  12. Yael–
    I don’t have a problem with people criticizing Israel from other places. And, it’s very healthy when Jews do so.
    But when someone writes.. “You Israelis want this guy crafting health policy for you and your children?”…it comes off as a bit patronizing because, for good or bad, the government in Israel represents the people in Israel, who must live with that government’s decisions.
    And, despite all of its flaws, Israel’s democracy is a democracy (obviously this isn’t the case in the territories.) So, if 100,000 Jews who think like ML move to Israel in the next five years, it will be a much better Israel. (Assuming that ML is a Jew, which is probably why ML is interested in what the Israeli government says in the first place, and which is probably the reason why there are tons of blogs about Israel here, and basically nothing ever posted about China or Sudan here.)
    You’ve written before that you came to Israel with your family at a young age from the States, so maybe that’s why you seem to have a chip on your shoulder about American Jews immigrating to Israel (excuse the rudeness but that’s my perception from your postings.)
    But, personally, I think that Israel would be much better if more American Jews immigrated there…including ML…and the offer still stands that I’ll do everything I can to help him/her settle in if he/she will give a genuine committment to move.

  13. Jonathan1: I’d love to but my (Jewish) fiancee quite likes her job here (educating young Jews) and the house we’re purchasing.
    I’ll readily admit that Americans have our fare share of loonies in government as well. I say the same things about my friends across town in regards to their US rep.

  14. Somehow this reminds me of freedom fries, freedom toast, freedom bread, freedom wine, bus tour of freedom, etc.

  15. Oh, for heaven’s sake.
    How does an oddball comment – one that Jews were probably already joking about LONG before Litzman made this crack – go from being oddball to something indicative of Israel’s hideousness? How many Israelis are figuring they couldn’t possibly get the disease b/c they don’t eat pork? Is it possible – just possible – that Litzman was making a very unfortunate attempt at humor? (BTW: he’s since apologized to Mexican officials for calling it “Mexican flu.”) Does anyone seriously believe that this guy doesn’t realize that you can’t get the damn thing from pigs??
    I’m pretty sure I even heard some US experts saying that what’s being called “swine flu” may not even *be* the real deal b/c of the wide range of symptom variables. Not to mention the fact that (Fox News) <> mostly due to pressue from the US pork industry b/c it’s terrified that the industry’s going to tank. Plus this from the AP <>
    The US pork industry/Health Departments realize that *Americans* can’t figure it out … does that make them hideous or just savvy?
    Sometimes a dumb comment is just a dumb comment.

  16. Sorry – don’t know how to put in quotes.
    AP: U.S. officials said Tuesday they may abandon the term swine flu, for fear it’s confusing people into thinking they could catch it from pork — which is flat-out wrong.
    Fox: U.S. officials trying to contain the swine flu are now trying to contain the use of the phrase “swine flu” itself.
    At a briefing with reporters Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pleaded with the media and others to start identifying the illness as “H1N1 flu.”
    “This really isn’t swine [flu], it’s H1N1 virus,” said Vilsack, referring to the strain’s scientific classification. “And it is significant because there are a lot of hard-working families whose livelihood depends on us conveying this message.”

  17. I’ll take care of those links for you, penk.
    U.S. officials want ‘swine’ out of flu name
    Will we have condemnation on this blog of administration officials for daring to wish to rename the “swine flu”? Will an exasperated post be written? Will outrage at scientific illiteracy be expressed?
    Those of you who needed it have now been spanked with a big salty paddle, if only for an instant. Let’s make an effort to not repeat this experience.

  18. Firouz,
    I officially condemn the official(s) for you! Is that good enough?
    Do you have a name? And was it an administration official or a representative from the Swine lobby?
    I still think it’s less than desirable having an MK from UTJ administer the Health Dept., but to each his own.

  19. ML, there’s no reason for you to condemn the US official. The problem isn’t that people want to change the name – there could be any number of reasons (such as the one cited by the Ag Secretary) to want to change the name. The (to me, obvious) issue is that the Israeli Health Minister wants to change the name not for reasons associated with health or economics, but because pork is treif, which could seem like sort of a, you know, um, bad reason. The Israeli Foreign Ministry is attributing Litzman’s comment to “a slip of the tongue,” so someone seems to have realized that it’s ridiculous.

  20. jonathan
    your comment on why i don’t want american jews to come to israel is condescending and false. I hope you are not a psycologist.
    Maybe MK would be a terrible Israeli. Baruch Goldstein was an American immigrant and so is half of the Jewish community in Hebron. I owuld take our crazy deputy minister of health over them any day.
    Many american immigrants into this country have in, my opinion, hurt this country’s democracy greatly (and others have helped) Why do you think that this place would be better if more americans would come by virtue of them being americans? You are the patronyzing one.
    Stop telling people to come to our country just because they can. Do you live in Israel? If not, don’t promote mass migration into my country.

  21. And, to disagree, almost every American Jew I have met is nothing like the crazies in Hebron…they are much more like ML, KFJ, Justin, et al….personally, I think Israel would be a much better place if those types of people were citizens…but, as a whole, American Jews don’t move to Israel.

  22. “Stop telling people to come to our country just because they can. Do you live in Israel? If not, don’t promote mass migration into my country.”
    And, lastly, what’s going on with this lately on JS? Firouz wants to know when I realized that the settlers need to leave the territories…Yael wants to know if I live in Israel.
    The purpose of this amazing blog is (I thought) to exchange and debate ideas. I’m not interesting in writing all about myself because (1) nobody would care (2) it’s not relevant to the ideas I try to express (3)and I could just make up anything anyway.
    If somebody wants to interject personal things about themselve–ie, stating that they live in Israel often in posts about Israel–then they should be able to withstand a bit of criticism on those facts….If not, post just ideas, and only your ideas will be criticized.

  23. Americans… sabras… I’ll tell you this, a Soviet emigre friend of mine who is an “up and coming” mid-level administrator at the Jewish Agency swears that Russian Jews built Israel, and everyone else has done nothing but leech off that work.
    “If only everyone else thought like me,” we all say to ourselves, “Israel would be perfect.” Well, no one else thinks exactly like you, and so long as we can make free choices, no one will. You can deal with this in two ways, create a system to force others to submit to your way of thinking, or be a normal person who accepts the differences of others.
    Jonathan, I didn’t ask you when you realized that settlers need to be ethnically cleansed by force to pry at your private life. I wanted to understand what in your life led you to conclude that forcing Jews out of their homes at the point of a gun was acceptable. I thought maybe there was something – an incident, a moment of clarity… It’s one thing to say, let’s set Israel’s borders and whoever doesn’t want to come over to our side of the line can live with the Palestinians. But to forcibly expel people, our own people… why is me trying to understand your thought process considered beyond the bounds of a reasonable conversation?
    More importantly, why did it bother you so much that you still remember my question three weeks later?

  24. I have a very good memory. If you want to make criticisms/inferences on that it’s fine–that everything all of us write is fair game is obvious.
    And, to be clear, I absolutely do think that forcing Jews out of their homes at the point of a gun is acceptable–let there be no confusion about that…
    But, like Rav Aviner said, those Jews should leave voluntarily the moment the police knock on the door to begin with.

  25. I absolutely do think that forcing Jews out of their homes at the point of a gun is acceptable–let there be no confusion about that…
    There never was. What you never explained was how you arrived at such a conclusion. In fact, that’s the part you first refused to address, and then disparaged as an inappropriate intrusion into your personal life.
    You desire to ethnically cleanse Jews. What would be the point of criticizing you? All I can do is cry. I’m just trying to understand how you arrived at such a conclusion.

  26. so when MK says something it is relevant where he lives, but if you say something it isn’t? And you criticize people for being patronizing but when you are patronizing it is fine because everyone is?
    You are not interested in writing about yourself but rather to exchange ideas, but on the other hand remember a personalremark of mine from a couple of months ago and put a physiological spin on it to make a point?
    Are you sure you have a good memory?

  27. Firouz–I’ll answer you at that other blog later today. Believe me, I cry for you if you think that the Jews should stay in Judea and Samaria
    Yael–You can criticize me and make psychological remarks on anything I’ve written; if you don’t want pschological spins made about personal remarks don’t explicitly state, in every Israel-related post, that you live in Israel.

  28. Fiourz–I’ve never refused to address how I arrived at such a conclusion. You simply never asked. You kept writing–when did you realize this? Was it a emiphany moment? The implication therein is understood. Next time, just say–why do you think so?
    My apolgoies to everybody for such bizarre exchanges.

  29. This is nuts, huh Firouz?
    Ok, I can’t find that other blog so I’ll try to answer you here:
    Zionism, to me, means the attempt to create a Jewish sovereignty in our historical homeland. It means trying to create a society for Jews built on socialism, a society that can create some common language between “religious” and “secular”; a society that cares for the physical environment; a society that values scientific innovation; a society that values honesty in business and politics…to me, such an Israel would be a kiddush HaShem…but to get to that kind of Jewish sovereignty we have to ensure that most of the people in Israel are Jews. We have to ensure that we don’t spend another generation holding another people down under a military occupation. Look at the direction in which Israel is headed now versus the 1970’s, when Gush Emunim took off. It’s not the only reason, but there is a connection. Maybe for you Zionism means something else totally. There is no way to judge what is right or wrong with this.
    So, what’s the only answer according to my Zionism?: We need to divide the land between the River and Sea into two political entities–Israel and Palestine. The partition should be based on demographics as much as possible.
    That means that most, if not all, of the Jews currently living in Judea, Samaria, and parts of Jerusalem will have to move. That’s the only way.
    “It’s one thing to say, let’s set Israel’s borders and whoever doesn’t want to come over to our side of the line can live with the Palestinians.”
    Really? Even if the Palestinians were to agree to this, are there actually such settlers? Rabbi Fruman is the only one I can think of who might agree to such an arangement. Maybe you know of others? The community in Betar Illit? Who are you talking about? I guess that makes sence then. If those Jews want to stay in Palestine and trade their Israeli citizenship for Palestinian, and agree to turn over all weapons, and agree to abide by Palestinian law, etc. they should definitely be able to stay.
    Otherwise, they’ll have to move.
    ” Jews out of their homes at the point of a gun was acceptable”
    But why should anybody need to point a gun? Maybe this time, if that day arrives, the Jews in Judea and Samaria will cooperate with the authorities and leave the moment that the police knock on the door, as Rav Aviner stated. Maybe they’ll act like adults this time.
    Maybe the national-religious community can return to what it was when Yoseph Burg was running the NRP?
    Since it seems to be of great interest to you, btw, I’ll tell you when it really became obvious to me that the national-religious community has lost its way: It was when I was in the Israeli army in the summer of 2005. It was listening, for months, to representatives from Gush Katif insist that HaShem would stop the Disengagement, and hearing how they refused to cooperatate at all with the authorities in terms of compensation plans and job retraining. It was having a rare few days off in Jerusalem, and being stuck in the bus station there because two soldiers had placed a fake bomb, inscribed with the words “the Disengagement will blow up in our face” in a bathroom. It was hearing kippah-wearing soldiers joke about wishing Sharon dead. It was seeing the furor over Rav Aviner’s statement about leaving the second that the police arrive. It was watching parents shove their screaming babies into the arms of 19-year-old female-soldiers and yell “hear, expel him, this is what you want!” It was watching families leave their homes hands raised, calling border police Nazis–as if moving from one home to another in the Land of Israel, with hundreds of thousands of sheckels in their pockets had they wanted, is the same thing as being gassed to death. It was having teenages boys pelt me with stones and later explain to me that my problem is I’m an Israeli but not a Jew. It was hearing about Elazar Stern’s family being attacked at the Kotel, and how the police there had to rush to save them from a Jewish mob….those were the days.

  30. Interestingly the World Health Organisation have also decided to stop calling the flu ‘swine flu’ and have announced that from now on they will be calling it ‘influenza A (H1N1).’ The reason being that there has been much confusion world wide leading, for example, to Russia banning pork imports, and Egypt’s controversial decision to slaughter all pigs. I guess the Israeli health minister wasn’t the only one to take the name of the virus to heart.

  31. Jonathan, thank you. I’d rather not comment on what you’ve written, except to say that I much prefer your words above to the usual linguistic trench warfare that is more typical of blogging.

  32. Jonathan, related to what you just wrote, you may be interested in the following post on Jewlicious. The comment section is infinitely better than the post, as it brings in a true spectrum of Jewry, from wacko lefties to hard core settlers, and everything in between.

  33. How have you been vindicated exactly?
    One of the top doctors at Medical College of Wisconsin is a hassidic Jew and respected expert in medical halacha. The only thing you’ve convinced us of is that you don’t understand what halacha is and what role it serves.

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