Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Matza Wars

The latest bit of Israeli infighting concerns the sale of bread during Passover. According to Jewish tradition, for the full week of Passover bread is banned, not just from our mouths but from our homes and businesses as well. Israel, though a secular state, has traditionally upheld certain Jewish customs by law, closing restaurants on Yom Kippur and prohibiting the sale of bread and other leavened products during Passover.

This year, however, a Jerusalem court overturned the latter practice, ruling that the law was never meant to ban the selling of bread but only its public display, and that businesses could now sell bread on Passover as long as they didn’t put it in the store window. This has sparked a major outcry among the Orthodox (and promises to make for another fleeting coalition crisis).

Lest you think this is another case of the small Haredi minority imposing its will on the secular Israeli majority, think again. A poll just came out showing that fully 81 percent of Jewish Israelis refrain from eating bread on Passover. Not only that, 51 percent said they would refuse to patronize a store that sells it.

All sorts of interesting conclusions may be drawn here, but let’s start with the most obvious: The famous Israeli 80-20 split between secular and Orthodox is highly misleading when it comes to respect for Jewish tradition. It may not be an Orthodox country, but it is a conservative one, seeing in the Jewish past and in some Jewish practices central elements in their collective identity.


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