Thursday, April 17, 2008

Room of Requirement

This matzah bakery in Jerusalem opens just one night a year, and that night was tonight! The rest of the year, it's just a nondescript boarded-up building. And the only way to know about it is by word of mouth; I didn't find out its precise location until this afternoon, after lots of asking around. Its distinctive feature is that their matzot are soft like pita, in a traditional Mizrachi style, rather than hard like the matzot that are available almost everywhere else. They're made exactly the same way as other matzot (the whole process has to be over in 18 minutes, etc.), but they're thicker, which makes them stay soft. I've tasted soft matzah before, and don't get your hopes up too much, it still tastes like matzah (not surprising, since it's the same recipe), but it's still cool.

It is believed that this is what the original matzah was like. This means that the original "Hillel sandwich" was basically shwarma b'lafa: lamb roasted on a spit (pesach) on soft flat bread (matzah) with spices (maror). How the mighty have fallen.

If you're in Jerusalem and want to grab your soft matzah, it's not too late -- they'll be open until 2 pm tomorrow (Friday). (At least that's what we assume they mean. The sign says 2 pm on Erev Pesach, but that can't possibly be right. But this appears to be the same sign they put out every year, which you can tell from the old 6-digit cell phone number.) It's at the corner of Ussishkin and Rafaeli, one block from Bezalel. Be warned, it's not cheap: a set of 3 matzot is 80 shekels. Still, our seder will have 16 people, so the experience is definitely worth 5 shekels/person.

Sociological question: The matzah bakers were all men (the only woman inside was the cashier), and all the customers waiting in line (outside of our party) were men. We came up with a few explanations, but do you, reader, have any?


  1. um, the women were all at home finishing up the cleaning?

  2. Often enough, when the materials for a mitzvah can be prepared by anyone, the tagline "but it's preferable for a man to do it" is added. I would imagine that's what's going on with the bakers.

  3. Just a guess... they're making matzah l'shem mitzvah, and the presence of women would distract them from this purpose.