Why Do Israel’s Arabs Munch on Matzoh (Passover Bread)?

Many of us know it well – the crunchy cracker-like “bread” Jews call matzoh. It is made without leaven, according to instructions for the Passover celebration. Jesus referred to unleavened Passover bread as his “body” in the Last Supper. Some churches use matzoh (sometimes labeled as ‘matzo’) for Communion in Sunday worship.

Factories in Israel recently turned out huge amounts of matzoh for the Passover, but many Christian and Islamic Arabs appear to have been enjoying it.

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.

…”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.”

Many Jews don’t really love the stuff.

…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.

This is just part of a broader experience though.

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.

You can read the article here.


About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister with the North Terrace Church of Christ and has participated in multiple archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke leads informative, meaningful tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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