What does a Jewish state do with it’s hametz, or all leavened food products,
when Passover rolls around? It sells it to a gentile.
According to Torah
law, a Jew is not allowed to eat or even to retain ownership over hametz during
the holiday. Many Jews sell their bread, pasta, cereal and more to a gentile and
repurchase it after the festival ends. They lock the food in a cupboard, which
then becomes the property of the non-Jewish purchaser.
In the State of
Israel, that purchaser – of the entire country’s hametz – is Jabar
Hussein is the food and beverage manager at the Ramada hotel in
Jerusalem. An Israeli- Arab from the village of Abu Ghosh just outside of the
capital, Hussein has been buying the hametz belonging to every government
ministry, the security services and those restaurants that sell their hametz
through the Chief Rabbinate for years. Hussein took over the job after his
predecessor – who was also from Abu Ghosh – discovered that his maternal
grandmother was Jewish.
Sitting in his office at the Ramada, which is
lined with photos of himself posing with Israeli leaders from Yitzchak Rabin to
Binyamin Netanyahu, Hussein told The Jerusalem Post just what is entailed in the
annual ritual of purchasing the country’s hametz.
How many years have you
been buying Israel’s hametz?
I have been doing this for 15 years, buying the
hametz of the State of Israel. I started 15 years ago when the chief rabbi of
the state was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. In the course of my work as food and
beverage manager for the hotel, I meet all sorts of important figures in the
state and MKs in the hotel and as such I got to know Rabbi Lau. He brought me
into this and explained to me exactly what the significance is of the sale of
hametz and since then I buy it every year.
How does it work?
country’s finance minister gives the chief rabbis the power of attorney to sell
the hametz to someone who isn’t Jewish. So the chief rabbis sell it to
I sign a contract at the Chief Rabbinate with many clauses and
conditions regarding every matter and I need to come with money to
Is there a ceremony?
There is a ceremony on the 20th of the month at
the Chief Rabbinate with the Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis and the finance
How much do you pay?
I pay a down payment of NIS 20,000 [and I
get back] the entire amount after Passover.
They sell me all of the
hametz belonging to the State of Israel which is worth more than $150
So you buy millions of dollars worth of merchandise for several
It’s a beautiful thing. I become the richest man in the State
of Israel for Passover.
But they don’t bring trucks to you full of the
No. It remains in its place. I also [get] the
locations, the storehouses. Wherever there is hametz, it becomes mine during
You have the legal right to enter and
Certainly. I have the right to go in and check everything I
bought. I have to go around and check these things. I do the rounds.
is also the hametz of the IDF, the police?
Yes, [as well as] the government
ministries and what there is on planes. It all becomes mine.
that sells their hametz through the Chief Rabbinate, that also becomes yours?
Certainly. They sell it to them and the Chief Rabbinate sells it to
Does this ever feel weird to you?
No. I understand it very well and
if I can help, why not? I’ll help with happiness.
According to Halacha it
is forbidden for Jews to have hametz so I have no problem to buy it for
What do your neighbors say?
They are interested and I explain
it to them and they take it well.
Have there every been problems with the
There are no problems, but every time it’s funny because the media
does their stories about the man from Abu Ghosh who buys all the hametz. There
are also people who call me and say, “send me a truck of flour,” because they
think that I have it all with me. It’s funny.