Arab Bakers Anticipate a Happy Passover, Thanks to Shas

Here in Israel, they say that Passover brings Jews together. Religious and non-religious, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Tel Avivians and Jerusalemites, the vast majority of Israel’s Jews will sit down to a Seder this evening.

Yet few people realize that Passover also spurs a certain unity between some of Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. The holiday has some Israeli Arabs rooting for the Orthodox political parties, including the rightist and pro-settler Shas.

Jewish religious law forbids the possession during Passover of bread and similar products, known in Hebrew as chametz. In Israel, the sale of chametz in Jewish areas on Passover has been illegal since the enactment in 1986 of the Festival of Matzot Law. It states that bakery goods may not be displayed in public during the weeklong holiday.

But the law has seldom been enforced, and for years Shas, together with other Orthodox factions, has been on a crusade to change this situation. This Passover, Shas is in control of the Interior Ministry, and has instructed local municipalities to employ inspectors and fine anybody they find purveying chametz.

In an Arab bakery in Haifa this week, there was rare admiration for Shas. It’s simple economics. Arab bakeries used to do roaring trade during Passover, selling to Jews searching for chametz. But in recent years, the taboo on Jewish shops selling chametz has eroded, and chametz has become far more readily available on the Jewish market. Shas’ move to reverse this could mean a very happy Passover for Arab bakers.

Your Stories

  • "This holiday we take for ourselves,
 no longer silent servers behind the curtain, 
but singers of the seder,
 with voices of gladness,
 creating our own convocation,
 and leaving ‘The Narrow Place’ together."E.M. Broner

  • "The idea of opening the door is that we hope Elijah might actually be there this year – that we might actually have done enough to change the world to have had him arrive. And, if we don’t have even the tiniest bit in us that thinks he might be there, that thinks we have tried our hardest to bring around a messianic time, with no hunger, no war, no conflict, no pain – if we don’t believe that we have tried to end those broken parts in the world – well, then I tell my students – don’t do any of it."Rabbi Leora Kaye

  • "The whole seder, for me, is the tension between two statements: We say, 'We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and now we’re free,' but before that, we pick up the matzoh, we invite the hungry in and we say, 'This year we are slaves, next year may we be free.' We are the most fortunate, liberated Jews in history. But on the other hand, there are lots of things that enslave us."Rabbi Arthur Green

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