Israeli settlers distributed hundreds of loaves of bread to needy Palestinians on Monday, combining the religious edict of discarding leavened bread ahead of Passover and sending a message of peace to their Palestinian neighbors.
For the third year in a row, members of the Eretz Shalom movement — inspired by the late Rabbi Menachem Froman — collected food products forbidden for consumption on Passover in six distribution points across the West Bank and distributed them to nearby Palestinian communities as part of an initiative called “goodbye to Chametz” (leavened bread).
Yaki Fried, a resident of Ofra, a settlement located 29 kilometers (18 miles) north of Jerusalem, told The Times of Israel that he collected between 500-700 loaves of pita bread discarded by grocery stores in the West Bank settlements of Eli, Shilo and Ofra.
“Two years ago we saw the owner burn huge quantities of perfectly good bread,” Fried said. “So we decided to contact a local Palestinian and distribute the bread to needy people. There are many small things we can help each other out with.”
The Eretz Shalom activists attached a letter in Arabic to the bread parcels reading, “In the name of God the most merciful, we wish for neighborly relations. Our hands are extended in peace, peace from the heart. Peace is the grace of God and the name of God. From your Jewish neighbors, members of Eretz Shalom.”
Fried said that last year, movement volunteers distributed candy to Palestinians with a similar message of peace on a Muslim holiday, garnering extremely positive reactions.
Shawkat Abu-Ras, 36, a peace activist and resident of the Palestinian village of Sawiyah, 48 kilometers (29 miles) north of Jerusalem, received the bread from Fried and distributed it among the needy families of his village.
He told The Times of Israel that he hoped such initiatives would improve relations between Jews and Arabs.
“Enough blood has been spilled between our peoples,” Abu-Ras said. “We should donate our blood instead to the sick in hospitals. We should give our blood with love.”
Fried acknowledged that the “goodbye to Chametz” initiative is largely symbolic, but said that fact didn’t dissuade him from carrying out similar initiatives in the future.
“This will not solve the problem, but lots of small steps can create a different atmosphere.”