Rav Arrested for Operating Pharmaceuticals Gemach


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Acting on a Health Ministry complaint of a pirate pharmacy, police launched an investigation into a rav who operates a pharmaceutical gemach in his community in Eretz Yisrael. When police raided the suspect’s home they found thousands of prescription meds along with HMO identification cards belonging to a number of people.

Needless to say the evidence served to confirm police suspicions and the rav was taken into custody on suspicion of operating an illegal pharmacy.

The rabbi explained he was simply doing a chessed, trying to assist neighbors, especially on shabbos, yomtov and nights, when pharmacies are closed.

The rav has been released on bail. The investigation continues.

The way such gemachim work as follows. They usually only stock certain types of medications, obtained legally with prescriptions from local pharmacies. In the event a person requires a certain drug during hours when pharmacies are closed, the gemach will supply it and then the borrower must replenish the stock by filling the prescription in the pharmacy. This system also ensures the stock is rotated and medications do not expire.

Of course such a gemach requires cooperation with a local pharmacy. Such gemachim are run by extremely responsible individuals, usually people friendly with a pharmacist or at times, the gemach is run by a pharmacist himself.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)


  1. The tone of this article is extremely inappropriate. If the man was not Jewish and not a rabbi you would not be defending him. What he was doing is illegal. Even if it is a “chessed”.

  2. As nice as the entire idea sounds and is, the fact is its still illegal. Some times the biggest chesed is understanding that the torah does not condone the breaking of laws or the chillul hashem that may come from the aforesaid acts…

    Very sad that he was caught but if your not a pharmacy you really dont have the right to dispense prescription drugs. We should all learn from this and many other similar stories. Whether its a money gemach or medical gemach in any country we must always abide by the laws of the land.

  3. “…What he was doing is illegal. Even if it is a chessed”
    Oy-Vey, such crooked thinking.

    The only reason you are so cold-blooded is because your wife or children never suffered pain on Yom-Tov. What do you care about someone else’s Tsoris.

    Drugs are illegal without a prescription, because the doctor’s have lobbied the government to have a monopoly on dispensing tese prescriptions. It wasn’t always this way.

    Whenever you are told that something is “illegal,” use your common sense. Is there a really good reason, or is it totally arbitrary to benefit some special interests who have bribed the government officials to create special legislation which will give them a monopoly.

    Do you know that it is “illegal” in NY State for you to have your blood tested without a doctor’s prescription?

    By the way, in Nazi Germany, it was “illegal” to save a Jew from the death camps.

  4. “Of course such a gemach requires cooperation with a local pharmacy. Such gemachim are run by extremely responsible individuals”

    1) This isn’t a news article, it’s an op-ed. Stay objective or don’t call yourselves a news site.

    2) Really? You know that for a fact? I want to know how you know that.

    3) If they were “extremely responsible” then he wouldn’t be operating an illegal pharmacy.

  5. Wow, such self righteous comments. I was once in Israel with my family and my baby got strep. Where I was there was only the “Kupa” medical center who would not see my child since I was foreign. I went to a private house who did instant cultures. One of these Gemachs really saved me, where I got medication from.
    To all the above comments, how many of you have illegal cleaning ladies that you pay cash??? Kind of wrong don’t you think? It’s against “the law of the land” as some of you put it.

  6. Those of you writing comments obviously do not understand the Israeli medical system.
    Most pharmacies in Israel are open weird hours, they either close at 2pm or are open from 3-5. The g’mach works in conjunction with the pharmacy and most times the “after hours” doctor will suggest you go to the g’mach to get your medication.

  7. Wow – from just reading this short article you have already all become experts on the case, the law, and the halacha!

    First of all, if the article had been about a non-Jew, there would be no problem accusing him of whatever you can imagine. But after being told he is a rabbi, you must judge him favorably. The article ends by stating that there are in fact legitimate needs for these gemachs, usually run by responsible individuals friendly with a pharmacist. It did not say that it was legal or not, and who said that this rabbi does not fit that description?

    Just because the police arrest someone, does not make them guilty, even by non-torah standards. They have a chance to defend themselves, except on Yeshiva World News.

    In my neighborhood, a local PA stocks certain antibiotics before Yom Tov, given to him as an advance from the pharmacy. If for example a strep culture taken before Yom Tov shows up positive, he will walk the medicine over to your house and give it to you, on the condition that you contact the pharmacy after yom tov to provide your payment information, and he will provide the prescription. I have no reason to believe that this rabbi was doing anything different, or that it is any more or less legal when the doctor provides it himself, or sends the patient to pick it up from the Rabbi.

  8. 1. A “gemach” makes gifts or loans. Was this really a gemach?

    2. The drugs in questions were paid for by whom? A pharmacist who sells drugs is responsible for them being delivered properly.

    3. Emergency pharmacies are supposed to be run by pharmacists. The analogy to all this seems similar to a person without the proper training running a emergency medical service.

    4. Any chance this was connected to some scheme to assist people lacking medical insurance (e.g. yeshiva students with expired tourist visas)?

  9. Not only is it illegal, but s/o could die C”V because such people did not study to be pharmacists. There is a good reason for pharmacy schools and licensing requirements.

  10. I live in Israel in a frum community where there is a medicine g’mach. How many times on Shabbos or Yom Tov some one in our family needed a medicine and we were able to start treatment. Later we go to the doctor and get a Rx to replace what we take.

    It is a shame that this person was arrested, but perhaps either he was selling (and not free) or he did some thing else wrong.

  11. “First of all, if the article had been about a non-Jew, there would be no problem accusing him of whatever you can imagine.”

    Thanks for all the anti-semitism you probably cause. Much appreciated by the rest of us…

  12. here in yerushalayim, as well as all over eretz yisroel,there are such medicine gemachim in every single frum neighborhood, sometimes a few of them. They are openly listed in the Gemach section of the chareidi phonebooks, Newcomers Guide, etc.
    Unlike the States,UK, etc., there are no 24-hr pharmacies here, and certainly none on shabbos and yomtov. We have used them many times for unexpected things like antibiotics, painkillers, childrens meds. Some gemachim are very well stocked with a full range of medicines,very professionally organized, some less, or just supplying specifics like Tylenol or antibiotics and they will usually advertise that in their listing.
    These gemachim are a lifesaver if necessary on shabbos, and depending how they are run (foreigners can use or not) they can save visitors without insurance a lot of money.

    All in all,this is one of trhose things that is very prevalent, technically illegal, available publicly listed in every community because everyone turns a blind eye. It is unfortunate that someone was arrested. I would hate to see the gemach pharmacies disappear for fear of prosecution.

  13. #6 chjewess – Visitors from abroad can always go to Terem for medical service and also get a prescription that is good at any pharmacy in Israel. I also heard that you can also get reimburse for treatment at Terem if you purchased travel insurance.

    I also heard of a gemach that collects the extra pills in your prescription and dispenses them.

  14. I see nothing wrong with the Gmach. The patients have to have a prescription which they will fill and return to the Gmach anyway. Without the prescription they can’t get the medication. So what’s wrong? It’s Chareidi bashing again. Why should the gov’t. be allowed to make rules about what medicines one takes anyway? For your protection? They couldn’t really care less about you. They just want to make money and they’re in cahoots with the pharmaceutical companies.By the way – Do you know that for animals you can buy antibiotics from a catalogue without a prescription?