Dispatches from an American in Israel: Passover

I was so excited when Louie asked me to be a guest blogger for Holiday Rap, his awesome holiday blog. I’m thrilled to be able to offer my own unique take on the celebration of Jewish holidays here in Israel. A little about me: I’m an American-raised gal, who moved to Israel more than a decade ago … and since, have been trying to figure out where I fit in this dual-identitied existence of mine. One thing’s for sure: My favorite part about life in Israel is the Jewish holidays.

Whether you’re religious, traditional or secular, it doesn’t matter come Pesach (Passover in Hebrew). Here, everyone from the 18 year-old soldiers to the 80-year old grandmas are cleaning for Passover. Grocery stores are getting rich off bleach sales! In fact, the average grocery bill in Israel is doubled during the week of Passover (my pocket book sure felt the pinch on Tuesday, when I did my big shop.)

Grocery stores know that Pesach is their golden cow (forgive the bad Moses on Mt. Sinai pun), so ever since Purim ended a month ago, the major national chains have been turning over their shelves to hock their Pesach wares. Matzah, matzah and more matzah, plus all your regular groceries, too, are now Kosher for Pesach.

In fact, come the start of the holiday (the seder is on Saturday night, April 19th), stores will cover up their non-Kosher for Passover items with huge red-x’d tarps, so that shoppers don’t inadvertently buy chametz. I remember shopping for Passover as a kid in America. Manischevitz was my friend, but man, was selection limited – and over-priced. Here, you can get everything kosher for Passover and there’s no mark-up.

Another fun aspect of Passover in Israel is that 97% of the Jewish population here (which is 3/4 of the country’s 7 million citizens) participates in a seder. Not every house is reading the whole haggadah, to be sure, but traditional foods and songs are definitely an integral part of the evening. Likewise, school children around the country are practicing the Mah Nishtana, making Passover crafts and learning the stories of Moshe (Moses), the 10 Plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. No matter how each individual family may celebrate Pesach, this is a pinnacle holiday for the whole country – and everyone’s getting in on the festivities!

How are you getting ready for Passover at your home — wherever in the world it may be?

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