Making Aliyah: My first Passover in Israel

Hello readers! This week I’m going to take a diversion from the regular informational columns about things to know as an oleh and I’m going to talk about one of the unique parts of Israel in a personal way—the holidays.

This was my first Passover (Pesach) in Israel, and my first Pesach as an Israeli. One thing that separates Israel from the rest of the world is the number of days in the holiday. Outside of Israel there are 8 days to Passover, and in Israel there are 7—so there is one less holiday-day (called chag) than outside. As a new Israeli, the concept of having only one day of chag is a little weird, because it kind of feels like half of the holiday is missing. In a way it is, but it’s still odd to have only one day.

Another difference is that you have to check EVERYTHING for not only being kosher for Passover (Kasher l’Pesach, or abbreviated as “kashl“ap”), but also checking to see if it’s kosher for Passover for everyone, or only for those who eat Kitniyot (legumes and such, including rice, beans, and corn; Jews of Sefardi descent eat them, Jews of Ashkenazi descent don’t). There is a lot in Israel that is kosher for Pesach that may contain kitniyot, including drinks, snacks, even yogurt. Outside of Israel, especially in North America where I am from, things will generally not be on the kosher for Passover shelves if they have kitniyot in them, or they will be in a separate area. Here they’re very mixed in and you have to check things very, very carefully.

As far as the products—in Israel there is a law that chametz (leaven) products cannot be displayed for public sale. In North America, if you’re not in a kosher grocery store, then there is usually a part of the store sectioned for Passover products. In Israel, they drape plastic tablecloths over the non-kosher l’pesach areas and put a sign on them that says “chametz.” And anything else is kosher for Passover, however you have to check it for kitniyot.

And since it’s a national holiday, many people are off or take off from work and participate in the Israeli pastime of hiking and camping. The North is just starting to bloom, and many people go camping on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and in other areas of the Galilee and Golan (Ashley: to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend the Sea of Galilee during the holiday season). Another popular spot is the Dead Sea. One other thing—the buses, at least the Jerusalem buses, alternate the route number and direction with “Chag kasher v’sameach”—“A kosher and happy holiday.”

Passover in Israel…nothing like it!

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