Passover in Israel is a bit different than Passover in the diaspora. There are the obvious differences: one night of Seder in Israel instead of two (unless you heathens only do one or none at all), almost no bread products to be had anywhere (it’s actually illegal in Israel) and a mad assortment of kosher for Passover foods and dining options, because land of the Jews. But there are more subtle differences as well. Passover is a time of the year where pretty much everyone is off. Schools, universities, government offices etc. – all are closed during the holiday. While Jews at the seder always say “next year in Jerusalem” – many Israelis use this time to travel abroad – which is kind of funny when you think about it. Many of those that can’t travel abroad use their free time to travel within Israel. As a result the roads are choked with traffic and every hotel, park, beach and attraction is full of families and screaming kids. In Israel, this is the most wonderful time of the year.
As such, we decided to sample some of the fun stuff Israelis do because, when in Rome… Also, hackers attacked the site and what else could I do! So the first thing we did was Passover prep – Days and days of cleaning that culminated in the burning of the chametz. Yay!We then took a bus to my family in Moshav Tirosh – what used to be an agricultural settlement populated by Moroccan Jews. Not so much agriculture here but loads of awesome food and more cousins than I can count. Seriously. I can’t keep up with how many there are and who they are and who they belong to. I just smile and keep eating. In any case, the bus was packed of course, I didn’t manage to get a seat but at least the bus itself wished me a happy Passover – another “only in Israel” thing. Yay. Suffice it to say, guts were busted, seders were read, tons of food was consumed and a great time was had by all.
Saturday night we headed to Gush Etzion to attend a second night seder. This one was special because it was attended by local settlers as well as Palestinians celebrating their first ever Passover meal. I’m not really supposed to say who organized it and where exactly in the Gush it took place but it was actually pretty neat. I acted as the honorary Rabbi and we all discussed the nature of slavery and what that means in this day and age. I am pretty sure it was an eye opening experience for all who attended though I am not sure what I’m allowed to say so I’ll just leave you with this photo. Needless to say, on the Jewish side, several alumni from the Muslim Jewish Conference and The Schusterman Foundation’s ROI were in attendance.
Next we attended one of the many Festivals that take place in Israel during chol hamoed (the in between days). Most are very commercial and involve camping for a few days as well as activities and music. We attended the Rainbow gathering – a totally non-commercial month-long camping experience in the woods just south of Jerusalem. The vibe was very hippy and everyone was very friendly. Some people were even naked. But there was loads of room (most other Festivals have tens almost one on top of the other) and it cost us nothing, which was refreshing given the highly commercialized nature of much that is Passover related.
Camping at Rainbow was quite the experience but it was nice to get back to Jerusalem and the creature comforts contained therein. On the last day of Chol Hamoed we attended a Passover breakfast put on by Our Crowd – a Jerusalem based crowd funding platform for Israeli startups. Yeah. That’s what I said. Crowd funding for startups! Sounds crazy you say? Well they must be doing something right because breakfast was a super sweet spread of all kinds of kosher for Passover yumminess at the fancy shmancy new Waldorf Astoria. We got to hear founder John Medved and speakers from a few of the Our Crowd companies and I was urprised at how many people I knew there! We went from rationing peanut cookies and water to noshing on smoked fish while sipping fancy coffee. It was great. I’m going to need to write more about this amazing company because I was really impressed by the work that they do. Really. It wasn’t just the breakfast! Also the Waldorf is over the top fancy – like a Hungarian house on steroids. Now I know what the Reichman’s living room must look like. I used to live across the street from them in Toronto but they never invited me over for Shabbat. Oh well!
And finally we made one last Passover Shuk run to get food and veggies. Fun! Hope you are having a great Passover!