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TESS VIGELAND: Passover begins Saturday evening. For the weeklong holiday, devout Jews do not eat bread. Instead, they eat matzah, an unleavened cracker made of wheat and water. It symbolizes the Jews’ sudden exodus from Egypt, when they were unable to allow bread to rise.
In Israel there are traditional restrictions on the availability of bread during Passover.
But this year, both the pious and the secular have reason to celebrate. Daniel Estrin explains.
DANIEL ESTRIN: Roy Wolf manages Aviv, the leading matzah factory in Israel. By the time Passover starts on Saturday, the factory will have made 100 million matzahs. In Israel, it’s a $35 million industry.
ROY WOLF: We are baking 24 hours a day, six days a week. From November till April, just before Passover eve.
That’s six months of round-the-clock production for just one week of consumption. It’s the only way to meet the demand. About 70 percent of Israeli Jews won’t be eating bread next week. The rest. . .
MAN AT RESTAURANT: I prefer to eat my loaf of bread in Passover. To stick to matzahs, for one week, it’s a bit too long.
WOMAN AT RESTAURANT: I like bread mostly on Passover. It tastes better, ’cause it’s not allowed.
Though selling baked products in public places was considered illegal, the law was never enforced, until last year, when a few Jerusalem restaurants were slapped with fines.
But a judge recently ruled that restaurants and grocery stores are not “public” venues. So from now on, as long as they don’t display it in the windows or advertise their bread, owners can sell all the bread they want. A kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach.
TOOLIE YEDID: I’m going to put like cloth, that high, to block the view. If you walk here, you can’t see the bread.
Toolie Yedid owns the Riff Raff restaurant.
ESTRIN: So you’re going to put basically like a wall of cloth, just to . . .
YEDID: Something like a wall, just . . . We don’t want to make anyone angry. We just want to do keep on doing what we are doing, as quiet as we can. . . .
DONNA GELLER: I think it’s a sad thing.
Donna Geller is a recent immigrant from the U.S. She loves pizza, but . . .
GELLER: It’s bread. You know. And I think that that is the least thing we can do as Jews — no matter what our level of observation is — is to eat matzah and stay home.
Passover used to be a dead period for pizzerias. Allison Lahav plans to keep her Chili Pizzeria open next week for the pizza-deprived.
ALLISON LAHAV: We know it’s painful for the religious. We are not looking to hurt anyone, or even to start any fights. We just want to go about our daily lives, and do business as secular Jews in Jerusalem. And we triple our business in Passover, and there’s a huge demand from the secular community. It’s definitely the best week of the year, businesswise.
Not everyone is taking such a relaxed attitude toward this development. A religious political party is threatening to quit the governing coalition if the court’s decision isn’t cancelled by Passover eve. And ultra-orthodox Jews are planning major protests outside of restaurants that sell bread products next week, which could scare away business. But Allison at the pizza shop is hoping for compromise. Though when it comes to her own product . . .
ESTRIN: Did you ever consider making pizza on matzah?
LAHAV: No, that sounds horrible. Some things, you know, you just shouldn’t touch.
In Jerusalem, I’m Daniel Estrin for Marketplace.
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