Jerusalem: Israel’s six largest hospitals will open Muslim prayer rooms within the next 18 months, the Health Ministry informed the High Court of Justice in response to a petition on the issue. Health Ministry director general Roni Gamzu assured the court that within the next year and a half, Ichilov (Tel Aviv), Sheba (Tel Hashomer), Beilinson (Petah Tikva), Hadassah-Ein Karem (Jerusalem), Rambam (Haifa) and Soroka (Be’er Sheva) hospitals will have all Muslim prayer rooms. Rambam and Soroka already have such areas, he said. The petition, which is being heard by Justice Neal Hendel, was filed by Salim Nasser, an Israeli Muslim who had visited a relative hospitalized at Ichilov Hospital and found that there was no dedicated prayer area for Muslims. According to Nasser’s attorney, Yehuda Ressler, “The petitioner and his family came from a distance and had to say their prayers on the hospital lawn, which he doesn’t deem appropriate.” Nasser claimed that he felt “embarrassed and discriminated against.”
The subject of Muslim prayer areas in hospitals was at the center of a dispute in the summer of 2011 between then Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and the director of the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, Dr. Massad Barhoum, the first Arab to head a government hospital in Israel.