Matzot Aviv, which located in the heart of Bnei Brak, faces a 20 percent increase in demand despite the coronavirus crisis, and is operating around the clock to ensure there is no shortage. "People are buying like there's no tomorrow," says Roi Wolf, vice president of Matzot Aviv. "The inability to go overseas and the fear of quarantine have led to an increase in demand. So, not only were our workers not put on unpaid leave like the rest of the job market, but we recruited new workers to keep up with the load."
Bnei Brak has been in the headlines following the rapid increase and spread of the coronavirus among its mainly ultra-orthodox residents. It is currently the only city in Israel to have its entire municipal bounds placed under heightened lockdown. But in the matzo manufacturing industry, it turns out, business is booming.
The factory, situated on Jabotinsky street, one of the city’s main thoroughfares which has been blocked to traffic, had to adapt to the unusual circumstances. "Workers stopped at the checkpoints and arrived on foot, or we would send a vehicle to pick them up," Wolf says on the first morning after the lockdown was put into effect. "It delayed us a bit at the beginning of the shift, but we managed to get things going."
"The rabbis said coronavirus was chametz [contaminated by leavening agents], so it wouldn't be going into the matzo," Wolf jokes, but is quick to reassure that the baking temperature exceeds 300 degrees celsius and that no virus survives that. "The main concern is infection between humans, and we keep every precaution here – working with gloves, face masks, keeping two meters’ distance, maintaining hygiene and measuring workers’ temperatures before they enter the factory."
Logistics also changed following the virus. The factory went from three eight-hour shifts to two 12-hour shifts. "We had to generate less employee turnover and lower the chance of getting infected," he explains.
"Despite corona, Passover only lasts seven days"
As was seen in the egg and toilet paper industry, we too feel the pressure of shelves emptying. "People are panicking, retailers are calling us, and everyone is demanding more stock, so they don't have a shortage. We've spent more time on the operational and supply side of things than we have in previous years, to make sure everything runs properly."
Despite the pressure, Wolf wants to reassure the public: "There will be enough matzos for all. If matzos are missing in one store, there will be enough in another. We are continuing production at full speed. Although people are eating more at home and do not consume outside, do not panic. I see private people coming into our store and buying 10 and 11 packages. I want to add that while this is a pandemic, Passover only lasts seven days."
"We listed the prices before corona hit"
Unlike the price increases recorded for other products, such as masks, rubber gloves and Alco-Gel, the matzos' prices are not expected to change. "We started matzos' production in preparation for Passover in October. We published prices even before corona hit," says Wolf, "and we have no intention of raising them. Now that we are already on the home stretch, we will maintain the same price level as last year."
"Despite talk of a closure in Bnei Brak," Wolf assures, "the factory shop can be visited and transactions made, at a safe distance, according to the directives. We are on the main road, and will not shut down here."
Brought to press with the help of the International Relations Division of the Histadrut