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Israel and the surplus Passover bread

I thought the NPR human interest story about Passover was going to be a PR piece: What do Israeli Jews do with their leavened bread during Passover, when religious observance forbids not just the consumption of bread, but the possession of it? What do Jewish bakeries, grocers, eateries, distributors and warehouses do with their un-unleavened inventories? I’ll bet you were going to guess that they give it away!

Not to other observers of Passover obviously, but to non-Jewish needy maybe, who can eat it.

No doubt Israeli Jewish bread purveyors schedule inventory reductions to coincide with Passover. But according to the news segment, the mass of raised dough, for the brief Passover hours untouchable to Jewish adherents, regularly amounts to $150 million, every year. So what do they do with it?

Well according to NPR, here’s the deal.

On paper, the bread is entrusted to the governing rabbis, who make a collective deal with a single cooperative non-Jew. This Israeli Arab agrees to purchase the lot, by making a down-payment, with the proviso that he cannot take delivery until the balance is paid, and a further understanding that he will intentionally default on the transaction. He joked with the reporter that every year he falls short of the sum required. When the Passover restriction lifts, possession of the bread reverts to its Jewish owners, whose premises it never left, physically. The stock goes back on the books, and everyone is back in business.

No details about whether this is how Jewish communities have always overcome the Passover prohibition. Which we might assume has been a pressing challenge for centuries. And to be fair, the restriction was never about divesting of the bread, or being charitable, but more about commemoration through sacrifice, the flight from Egypt when Jews were compelled to take with them only unleavened bread.

So this news segment was not a heavy handed PR message about the piety of Israeli Jews, but a subtle glimpse into the pragmatic world of Judaism. Either message serves to familiarize the 98% of Americans who are not Jewish, with the daily life of Israelis. Though Israel may be a foreign nation, with the foreign concept of a state religion, the people of Israel are otherwise close kin of the white European Americans, as their blood-surrogate claimants to the Holy Land.

If you’re still wondering about the Arab Israelis who could have been in line for day old largess, don’t worry, this segment had that loose end tied up.

Night Porter Holocaust masochist themeBy the oddest of twists, the Israeli Arabs interviewed for this story declared their own preference for unleavened bread, for the Passover. This drew incredulous prompts from nearby Israeli Jews. Why would Arabs chose Matzo, the poor man’s bread, without being obligated?

But so says NPR. There it is. So no one’s missing the uneaten bread.

The lingering motif being, that while religious differences may remain, in terms of baked-goods gastronomy, Arab Israelis are wannabe Jewish Israelis.

God’s Chosen People, America’s chosen cousins, are even their captives’ chosen masters.

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