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Israel - Matzo No Treat for Jews, But Israel's Arabs Love It

Published on: April 3, 2010 10:16 PM
By: AP
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A Palestinian woman looks at boxes of matzoh in a grocery store in Abu Gosh, near Jerusalem, Thursday, April 1, 2010. Israel's Arab minority has developed a love affair with matzoh, the dry, crunchy wafers that observant Jews eat as a substitute for leavened bread during the weeklong holiday of Passover. Weeks before the holiday, Arab-owned stores across Israel stock up on matzoh, knowing their customers will clean it out. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)A Palestinian woman looks at boxes of matzoh in a grocery store in Abu Gosh, near Jerusalem, Thursday, April 1, 2010. Israel's Arab minority has developed a love affair with matzoh, the dry, crunchy wafers that observant Jews eat as a substitute for leavened bread during the weeklong holiday of Passover. Weeks before the holiday, Arab-owned stores across Israel stock up on matzoh, knowing their customers will clean it out. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Israel - Many Jewish Israelis can’t stand the stuff, so there’s something mind-boggling about their Arab compatriots: Why in the world do they choose to eat matzoh?

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Despite decades of uneasiness in their coexistence with the Jewish majority, Israel’s Arabs have developed a love affair with matzoh, the dry, crunchy wafers that observant Jews eat as a substitute for leavened bread during the weeklong Passover holiday.

Weeks in advance, Arab-owned stores across Israel stock up on matzoh, knowing their customers will clean it out.

The matzoh craving among Israel’s Arab citizens — about 20 percent of the population — reflects their ambiguous place in the Jewish state. While they speak Hebrew, carry Israeli passports and wear Israeli brands, many say they suffer discrimination and identify themselves as Palestinians.

Still, they love matzoh.

“We eat it from the start of the holiday to the end, and when we run out we buy more,” said Umaima Igbaria, a 35-year-old Muslim woman who lugged a carton of matzoh out of a supermarket in the Arab town of Umm el-Fahm in northern Israel.

She said she, her husband and their three sons all eat matzoh, usually with tea and slathered with chocolate sauce. She said they didn’t care if it was “Jewish food.”

Inside the store, a 5-foot-tall (1.5-meter-tall) stack of matzoh boxes stood in the entryway, all that remained of the more than 4 tons that owner Tariq Ifin ordered for the holiday, which began Monday night. He had no doubts the rest would sell.

In the Passover tradition, matzoh commemorates the biblical story of the Jews fleeing Egypt so quickly they had no time to let their bread rise. Jews also consider matzoh poor man’s bread, eaten to remind them of their ancestors’ hardships. Few consider it a culinary delight.

“I don’t like it much, but it’s part of the holiday,” said Simon Mizrahi, 44, an observant Jew from Jerusalem who eats his matzoh with soup, cheese or butter.

Mizrahi said matzoh doesn’t fill him up like bread, and he worries its carbs will make him fat. Many other Jews share his ambivalence, recognizing its traditional role while saying they get tired of it.

To prevent matzoh burnout, many have developed alternative recipes. Some stir crushed matzoh into warm milk or coffee to make porridge. Others add an Italian twist, topping it with tomato sauce and cheese to make matzoh-pizza or substituting it for noodles to make matzoh lasagna, or “matzagna.”

Outside of the holiday, few eat it and few stores stock it. Many say they wouldn’t eat it if they had other options.

Thus their surprise when informed that Israel’s Muslim and Christian Arabs — who don’t observe Passover and can eat any bread they like — choose matzoh.

The answer to the mystery is simple, said Arabs in several mainly Arab towns in Israel. They just like the taste.

“The kids love it. They eat it like cookies,” said Wisad Jamil, a 43-year-old woman lugging a carton of matzoh and tub of chocolate spread to her car for her husband and five kids at the Umm el-Fahm store.

“Don’t the Jews eat our bread? Fine, we eat their matzoh,” she said.

Indeed, the mixing goes both ways, with Arab dishes like hummus and felafel now favorites of Jewish Israelis. And during Passover, nonobservant Jews often turn to Arab shops for leavened bread, which disappears from most Jewish-owned stores in the season.

Ifin, the supermarket owner, said some of his Arab customers once refused matzoh on ideological grounds, though fewer do now because of years of mixing.

“You can’t say Arabs and Jews are one people, but we share the same land, so why not share the same food?” Ifin said.

While Israel’s 1.5 million Arabs hold citizenship and vote in elections, they strongly identify with their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Most still call themselves Palestinians.

Palestinians in the territories and east Jerusalem largely don’t share the matzoh craze, and shops there don’t sell it. Israel captured the predominantly Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, and Palestinians claim it as the capital of their future state.

“We don’t like anything that comes from them,” said Jerusalem taxi driver Firas Salem, 27, when asked if he ate matzoh.

“And besides,” he said — expressing a sentiment shared by many Jews — “bread tastes better.”


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1

 Apr 03, 2010 at 10:39 PM yossels48 Says:

Eats it with soup gebrokts? Gevald what has pesach these days become of people not embarrassed to say that they eat gebrotks

2

 Apr 03, 2010 at 10:41 PM Anonymous Says:

Soon they will claim that Matzoh is a Muslim invention and that the jews stole it from them.

3

 Apr 03, 2010 at 11:06 PM Anonymous Says:

This is no different than non-Jews in America. So many non-Jews I have met have said they just love matzo

4

 Apr 03, 2010 at 11:13 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
yossels48 Says:

Eats it with soup gebrokts? Gevald what has pesach these days become of people not embarrassed to say that they eat gebrotks

The man's last name is Mizrachi. Why would a Sephardi keep gebrotks?

5

 Apr 03, 2010 at 11:21 PM Anonymous Says:

let me summarize this in one sentence 'i think that no arab country thats surrounding Israel can give them the same quality of life that Israel gives them and i think that they need to appreciate it more'

6

 Apr 03, 2010 at 11:27 PM Babishka Says:

Well, they can eat all the fake matzah!

7

 Apr 04, 2010 at 12:12 AM Anonymous Says:

Let them eat cake

8

 Apr 04, 2010 at 12:55 AM moshe Says:

Reply to #1  
yossels48 Says:

Eats it with soup gebrokts? Gevald what has pesach these days become of people not embarrassed to say that they eat gebrotks

what exactly is your problem? tens of thousands of people eat gebrochts. since when did you become a posek for people who have different minhagim then you? you have too much matzah on your brain

9

 Apr 04, 2010 at 01:08 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
yossels48 Says:

Eats it with soup gebrokts? Gevald what has pesach these days become of people not embarrassed to say that they eat gebrotks

Really?? Didn't Rav Moshe eat Gebrokts?

10

 Apr 04, 2010 at 01:08 AM Chasidishe Yeke Says:

Reply to #1  
yossels48 Says:

Eats it with soup gebrokts? Gevald what has pesach these days become of people not embarrassed to say that they eat gebrotks

You must be off your mind! Gebroks is a Chumre the holiest of gedolei yisroel ate gebroks ie. The Chasam Sofer and his talmidim (some) whilst I don't eat gebroks we shouldn't condem anyone doing so, especialy the Sefadim who don't have this tradition.

11

 Apr 04, 2010 at 01:43 AM Anonymous Says:

Does it the "Hallal" Hechsher?

12

 Apr 04, 2010 at 01:54 AM jimmy37 Says:

Reply to #1  
yossels48 Says:

Eats it with soup gebrokts? Gevald what has pesach these days become of people not embarrassed to say that they eat gebrotks

I'm not embarrassed to say I eat gebrokts. MMMMMMmmmmm. Aren't you embarrassed to claim that no matter how burnt your matzah, it's still possible to become chometz?

13

 Apr 04, 2010 at 02:33 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

The man's last name is Mizrachi. Why would a Sephardi keep gebrotks?

It's nothing to do with Sefardi or not. But if you eat machine matzos I don't see why you wouldn't eat gebrokts. I doubt that machine matzos ever have unbaked flour on the surface.

14

 Apr 04, 2010 at 02:38 AM Common Sense Says:

Living in Asia where our Peasch diet is rather limited, we eat lots of matzoh in many different recipes. May of my friends here, including me, notice we actually lose a bit of weight on Pesach despite the Matzoh. Out theory is that: 1) the Matzoh expands in your stomach and fills you up quickly. 2) We don't have all the Pesach-dik cakes, cookies, macaroons, chocolates, sodas, potato chips, etc. etc, that are available in large Jewish kehillas, and that is what really accounts for the added pounds. 3) We eat more fresh fruit and vegetables on Pesach. 4) You have to chew on Matzoh more than bread/cake so it provides more eating satisfaction. Matzoh should be a year-round food (but go easy on the butter and cream cheese).

15

 Apr 04, 2010 at 05:00 AM Anonymous Says:

HKBH cannot disapprove of gebrokts or it would be meforesh in the Gemarah. As for Arab Israelis loving matzos, half are probably halachic Yidden.

16

 Apr 04, 2010 at 10:25 AM Anonymous Says:

This just proves halacha-----you get a bigger s'char for doing a mitzvah if you are commanded to do so because human nature is to rebel.

Non-Jews may find matzah tasty, but Jews get sick of it because they have no alternative. Non-Jews get no s'char for eating matzah, while we get punished for eating chametz during Pesach. In addition, Jews are not rewarded by Hashem for eating matzah during most of the year.

17

 Apr 04, 2010 at 10:40 AM Ed Greenberg Says:

I love Matzoh. I love it all year round. Here in the US, we can get Matzoh all year round. We use it in place of Challah when we can't get or bake a suitable one, since we know that Challah was taken from it.

Outside of Pesach, whole wheat matzoh is only one Weight Watcher Point for a whole board.

My wife likes Matzoh Farfel as a base for soft boiled eggs. (I don't -- I think it hardens into cement, and I prefer toast.)

Matzoh lasts forever without spoiling, so I would keep a box in my desk at work for snacks. I would put some cheeze on it and zap it in the microwave to melt the cheese. Unlike bread, Matzoh does not change in the microwave.

During the months leading up to Pesach, I tend to avoid Matzoh, so the taste of it will be fresh when we get to the seder.

And, with due respect to those who do not eat Gebrockts, leftover shmurah matzoh makes excellent matzoh brei. See my father's recipe at http://www.greenberg.org/archives/140

18

 Apr 04, 2010 at 12:35 PM Hummus Says:

Who invented Hummus? Who stole it from who?

19

 Apr 04, 2010 at 12:57 PM CHOCHEM Says:

Let the Arabs eat that matzah seized in the warehouse with the phoney hashgochos. They should have no problem with it.

20

 Apr 04, 2010 at 01:47 PM Shimon Says:

If the issue that started gebrotks was that the matzoh weren't prepared properly, then the rabbis of the time shouldn't have said it was kosher. In modern times, we have a hecksher - if there are chametz pockets or loose flour on the matzoh, it isn't kosher - and if you don't trust the hecksher, don't buy that brand. And if you don't trust any of them, then make your own matzoh from scratch.

Making up stringency after stringency on top of the already large number of mitzvot we have turns Judaism from a rational, straightforward and enlightening religion into a maze of bizarre and incomprehensible rules that obscure what we are really doing and why we are doing it.

21

 Apr 04, 2010 at 01:54 PM A. Nuran Says:

Reply to #11  
Anonymous Says:

Does it the "Hallal" Hechsher?

Anything kosher is hallal except for wine.

22

 Apr 04, 2010 at 03:23 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Milhouse Says:

It's nothing to do with Sefardi or not. But if you eat machine matzos I don't see why you wouldn't eat gebrokts. I doubt that machine matzos ever have unbaked flour on the surface.

Its interesting you say that. Rav Aharon Kotler says even those who don't eat gebrokts could eat gebrokts machine matzo. He felt not to eat it is a minhag shtus.

23

 Apr 04, 2010 at 04:59 PM Anonymous Says:

All alcoholic beverages are haram(forbidden). I think it is funny that in NY matzoh made in Israel is the same price or less than US made matzoh. Why would someone buy US made matzoh if Israeli matzoh is the same price or less? It would be even funnier if some people in Israel eat US made matzoh. I seem to recall that most wheat consumed in Israel is grown in the US though, so the Israeli baked matzoh might be from US wheat. On my Israeli made matzoh box there is no mention of where the wheat was grown.

24

 Apr 04, 2010 at 05:12 PM HaNavon Says:

actually, matzos were invented not by the jews but by ancient mediterranean peoples long before we ever existed. the armenians have lavash, the iranians have nan-e sangak, turks have yufka, the sardinians have pane carasau and so on.
I know that people are opposed to the idea of eating matzos that are thicker and soft, more like a pita, but the truth is that that is a more historically accurate tradition of semitic bread making, and the original matzos of the jews probably looked more like a pita than a cracker.
many semitic and mediterranean peoples would make the dough thin enough that it could be eaten while it is soft, when it is fresh, or when it is hard after drying for several hours. it is no wonder that our not-so-distant cousins love it!

25

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