Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, following the example of Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin, will spend part of Passover in Israel.
Putin, during his previous stint as president, came to Israel during the Passover week in 2005 and Monti is due to arrive next week in the course of a tour of the region that will include Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. President Shimon Peres will host a dinner in his honor in Jerusalem on Tuesday night.
Peres also hosted a luncheon for Monti's predecessor Silvio Berlusconi, though generally speaking from the standpoint of protocol, presidents do not host events for prime ministers, especially in the case of countries that have both a president and a prime minister, as does Italy.
For Putin, as for Monti, the eating of matza rather than bread is not really a diplomatic sacrifice. Putin who regularly attends services in the Russian Orthodox Church and Monti who is a Catholic, are each familiar with the taste of matza because the wafers used in Communion in both churches are unleavened and taste just like matza.