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.
I really could spend all day bringing stories like this if they were only out there:
Data published Thursday by a national service placement organization indicates a dramatic rise in the number of Arabs who volunteer for national service. According to the data, the number of volunteers in the first months of 2007 exceeded by far the total number of volunteers in 2006.
Shlomit, the non-profit organization that arranges placements for secular national service volunteers, registered 213 young Arab volunteers between December and March, compared with 130 volunteers who began their national service last year.
If this trend continues, the total number of volunteers for 2007 is expected to double the registered number for 2006.
This is the first year that men - both Jewish and Arab - can officially volunteer for national service. Prior to 2007, men were only able to volunteer through a trial program for male volunteers.
These National Service Volunteers - Spies for or free combat training of Jihadists.
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