Matza's secret fans - Arabs
The first swallow of spring is usually found in the heaps of Matza boxes that fill supermarket aisles all over Israel. It certainly applies to supermarkets in the Jewish towns and cities, and apparently is also true in Arab communities.
Gadaban Supermarket, located at the entrance to Umm al-Fahm, generally stocks up on Matza for Passover. Moreover, the supermarket has to replenish its stock before the end of the holiday, due to keen demand by locals. Apparently, the Arab public regularly consumes large quantities of Matza.
Iyad Sharbaji, the manager of Gadaban, told Haaretz yesterday that his Matza is consumed entirely by local Arabs. "The Jews passing by here already have enough Matza. The customers are all from the local Arab community," he said.
His competitor down the road, The Market, opened this year. The demand for Matza therefore caught the store by surprise. "People told us ahead of time that they wanted Matza, so we bought five crates. Now we have only two left," he said.
It turns out the avid consumption of Matza is not a new trend in Arab towns and villages, whose inhabitants view the traditional Jewish food as a welcome and refreshing change in the menu. "It's not a religious issue, and certainly not a political one," Sharbaji explains.
A journalist associated with the Islamic Movement in Israel told Haaretz that he also bought Matza. "The kids can't get enough of it," he gleefully reported. "They eat it like crackers. But it also represents a sense of folklore for us. Maybe we like it more than Jews do because no one's forcing us to eat nothing but Matza all day long," he said in explanation.
Another happy customer from Baka al-Garbiyeh said his children and wife were "packing the Matza away," adding that they preferred to eat their Matza with a spread of jam or chocolate.
In fact, it seems Matza is particularly popular with Arab children, and most consumers report their sons and daughters especially relish the seasonal offering.
Since the demand for Matza in the Arab public is naturally unconnected to Passover, the residents of towns like Baka al-Garbiyeh begin consuming it well before the holiday.
Meanwhile, bakeries in Arab towns have reported a substantial increase in sales during Passover, as Jewish customers stock up on bread and pita, which are hard to find in Jewish towns over the holiday.