When Jaaber Hussein signs an agreement with Israel's Chief
Rabbis tomorrow, he will be inking the only Arab-Jewish accord sure to
be meticulously observed by both sides. The deal will make him the
owner for one week of all bread, pasta and beer in Israel – well a huge
amount of it anyway. The contract, signed for the past 12 years by the
Muslim hotel food manager, is part of the traditional celebrations
ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Jews are forbidden by biblical injunction to possess leavened bread,
or chametz, during Passover and ironically an Arab is needed to
properly observe the holiday. The agreement with Mr Hussein offers a
way of complying with religious edicts without having to wastefully
destroy massive quantities of food.
If only our capital markets could run so smoothly:
Tomorrow, Mr Hussein will put down a cash deposit of $4,800
(some 20,000 shekels or Â£3,245) for the $150m worth of leavened
products he acquires from state companies, the prison service and the
national stock of emergency supplies. The deposit will be returned at
the end of the holiday, unless he decides to come up with the full
value of the products. In that case he could, in theory, keep them all.
At the close of the holiday, the foodstuffs purchased by Mr Hussein
revert back to their original owners, who have given the Chief Rabbis
the power of attorney over their leavened products. "It's a firm,
strong agreement done in the best way," Mr Hussein said.
I thank Michael Webster for the pointer.