Swine flu hasn\’t spared Israel, and despite some attempts, neither has its non-kosher name.
Deputy health minister Yakov Litzman, a member of an ultra-religious party, said earlier this week that the name “swine flu” should not be used as it contains the name of the animal banned by Judaism.
He said authorities should instead call the virus sweeping the globe “Mexican flu”.
But the suggestion did not sit well with either Mexico\’s ambassador to Israel, nor the Jewish state\’s envoy to Mexico.
Mexico\’s ambassador Frederico Salas and the Israeli envoy to Mexico Yosef Livne both lodged official complaints at the foreign ministry on Tuesday, protesting about the suggested term.
“The ambassador (Salas) said he was offended when the deputy health minister\’s called it the Mexican flu,” a foreign ministry official told AFP.
“Israel has no intention of giving the flu any new names. It was nothing more than a slip of the tongue,” the official said.
Litzman\’s comments sparked a flurry of response within Israel.
“While this may seem to be just the semi-weekly “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,” wrote analyst Ben Hartman for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper online.
Some online posters humourously asserted that while eating pork was unkosher, “so was eating Mexicans”.
Eating of pork is prohibited by Judaism, the religion practised by the majority of Israelis. Islam, adhered to by most of Israel\’s Arab minority, likewise bans the consumption of pork.
Israel held crisis talks after two Israeli men who recently returned from Mexico were confirmed to have contracted swine flu in the first such cases the Middle East. A third suspected victim aged nine was rushed to hospital one day later.
A five-year-old girl, a relative of one of the Israelis confirmed to have contracted the disease, was also in hospital undergoing tests.
US officials said they were reviewing whether to change the name of the outbreak, complaining that a slew of countries were misguidedly banning pork exports from North America.
“This is not a food-borne crisis. It\’s important to not refer to swine flu. It\’s important to convey the message that consuming pork will not cause this illness,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters.
The World Organisation for Animal Health said on Monday that the name swine flu was a misnomer as the deadly virus has origins among birds and humans as well as pigs.