"JERUSALEM — On Idit Silman’s first day as Israel’s new environmental protection minister, she handed out soft drinks in disposable plastic cups to hospital patients.
The gesture held deep symbolic meaning in Israel, where soft drinks and single-use cups, plates and cutlery have become weapons in a culture war between the country’s secular Jewish majority and the smaller but politically powerful religious minority.
For much of the public, a tax imposed last year on plastic goods seemed like a straightforward way to cut down on the use of items that are major sources of pollution. But many ultra-Orthodox Jews saw the extra cost as an assault on a way of life that relies on the convenience of disposable goods to ease the challenges of managing their large families.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history, relies heavily on ultra-Orthodox parties and has moved quickly to remove the tax on plastics. On Sunday, his Cabinet voted to repeal the tax, sending the matter to the full parliament for what is expected to be final approval."
Ilan Ben Zion reports for the Associated Press January 29, 2023.