I am happy to say that we have survived our first (and hopefully last) Passover in Israel. It's one thing doing Passover at home back in the states (where you can technically cheat if you want to) but here in Israel, every bakery is closed, every open restaurant has a special Passover menu and every grocery store has blanketed their flour product aisles with large plastic sheets taped down securely. No bread, no yeast, no cookies....nothing leavened allowed....for a full 8 days and nights.
The only options available to you at the grocery stores here are matzah, matzah products, macaroons and eggs. Alright, I may be overexaggerating just a bit, but it really does feel that way.
Outside of the grocery store on the first day of Passover, you are likely to see something a little, well....for lack of a better word....bizarre. I can't remember ever seeing this going on back home in the US, but here in Israel the traditional folk are religious about (forgive the pun) their customs. Below, you will see images of Orthodox men burning the chametz (or bread product) that has been diligently removed from their homes. Not a single speck of leavened anything should be left behind. Whatever is found is to be brought to one of these burning flames where the chametz will be rid of with a special prayer.
When I saw this happening outside of my local grocery store, I nearly ran for cover, until my dad (who was there visiting with my mom) told me that they were just burning the chametz. Phew, close call.
So what is the story behind this holiday anyways? You've likely heard of it and even seen matzah boxes in your local grocery store; however, you may not know the history of the holiday. Long story short, Passover is the Jewish holiday that commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Allegedly, at that time, King Pharaoh was ruling over Egypt when Israelis where used as slaves. G-d did not like what he saw, and so sent Moses to King Pharaoh with a message to free the slaves. King Pharaoh did not listen, and thus, ten deadly plagues were cast over the Egyptians. The final plague was the death of every firstborn son; however, the lives of the Israelite firstborn sons were spared. The angel of death "passed over" their homes, which is where we get the name of the holiday for Passover. King Pharaoh's resistance was broken after the 10th plague and he ordered the Israelites to leave immediately, which they did, not leaving them enough time to even finish baking their bread. And thus they began on their bitter trek to Mt. Sinai where they would establish their historic home in what is now Israel.
|Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into freedom|
To commemorate this holiday, every year in the spring, we celebrated Passover for a full 8 nights, beginning with night 1, when we organize a Passover seder with our family and friends. I won't go into detail about the traditions at the seder table, but it looks a little something like this:
Passover finished up last night and now we have reachieved a semblance of normalcy. After two weeks off of school and work, it's time to get back into the routine. Hopefully, next year will be spent abroad like most of the Israelis have learned to do (likely in an attempt to avoid the massive influx of tourists that flock into Israel for the Passover and Easter holidays). Now, we are quickly approaching the other spring holidays, including Independence Day, Holocaust Memorial Day, Lag B'Omer and Shavuot.