Israeli army reservist bakes matzah for thousands of soldiers

The bakery specializes in what is called shmura matzah, which means the wheat is stringently supervised.

By Gil Tanenbaum, TPS

Ahead of this year’s Passover holiday, which is being celebrated in wartime, an Israeli army reservist took on the task of baking matzah — unleavened bread — for thousands of soldiers.

Meticulously prepared and adhering to ancient traditions, matzah holds significance not just as a dietary staple but as a symbol of heritage and resilience.

And Yedidya Harush, a former paratrooper, has woven his military experience into the ethos of his Emunah Matzah Bakery in the southern Israeli city of Netivot, where all the work is done by hand.

The bakery specializes in what is called shmura matzah, which means the wheat is stringently supervised from harvesting through the baking process to ensure no fermentation takes place.

“It’s not about kosher. It’s about authentic,” Yedidya explained to The Press Service of Israel. “It’s for the Passover seder [ritual meal] which is what our ancestors did thousands and thousands of years ago and this is what the matzah looked like when our forefathers came out of Egypt.”

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The process of baking matzah is “very difficult, very strict,” he said.

“From the moment we harvest the wheat, it’s all hand-made so I’m dependent on people, not machines. So if just one person does not show up, it really slows down the process so it might not even be profitable.”

The bakery produces 100 such matzahs in 18-minute intervals. Every 18 minutes, the 50 workers stop what they are doing and clean their equipment because that’s how long it takes for flour to ferment.

Now Harush is baking matzah for over 7,000 Israeli soldiers, including approximately 700 lone soldiers – soldiers who are usually immigrants or volunteers from abroad who do not have family support in Israel.

Many people who eat machine-made matzah during the week of Passover prefer to use shmura matzah at the traditional meal.

The bakery produces 18,000 boxes of matzah, totaling 54,000 pieces.

Each box contains three round pieces, mirroring the three matzahs traditionally used during the seder.

Among the organizations purchasing Yedidya’s matzot are the Jewish National Fund-USA which ordered 5,500 boxes to distribute to soldiers in need, while Soldier to Soldier ordered 300 for lone soldiers.

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Passover commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egyptian slavery. The Bible notes that the redemption came so quickly that the bread which the Jewish people baked for their journey did not have time to rise.

“This Passover is different after the Iranian attack,” Yedidya insisted. “From generation to generation, we deal with threats of destruction from different nations and thank God in every generation we prevail. So too, now we will prevail, only we will be bigger and stronger.”

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