There’s nothing in the world like being in Jerusalem for Chol HaMoed Pesach. It sometimes seems like the whole Jewish world, past, present, and future, are converging on the Holy City for an experience that transcends history, location, or any sort of economic sense. (Sixty shekels for a potato-flour bagel, anyone?)
Janglo, Israel’s oldest and largest online community for English speakers, has put together this guide of just about everything you’ll need to know for Pesach 2016. We’ll be updating it more as we get closer to the chag, so make sure to bookmark this page!
Whether you’ll be visiting Jerusalem this Pesach for your first visit in Israel, or you’ve lived here for 50 years, you’ll find this list helpful and interesting. We’ll start with the logistics of getting ready for Pesach, and then move on to food and fun for the holiday.
CLEANING: When I think of Pesach cleaning when I was growing up, I remember a lot of crying in the house. Yes, we kids hated it, but even more miserable were my parents, subjecting themselves to a a more back-breaking cleaning regimen than even Pharaoh would have tried. Nowadays, there is a greater recognition that many people go too far, and a quick search online will give you a wide variety of halachic articles with titles like “How to clean for pesach in one day.” (In fairness, I once saw a mommy blog post entitled “Only a man would say that you can clean for pesach in one day.” Touché.)
If you want to hire a cleaner before pesach, well, you better act quickly, because many of them are already booked solid. Check Janglo’s directory of cleaners and start calling around.
APARTMENT RENTALS Ditto for your lodging. Hotels and vacation rental agents live for this season, and holiday apartments in Jerusalem can be very pricey. Before you check Airbnb, make sure to look on Janglo’s Vacation Rentals category for hundreds of flats available all over town.
SHEKEL-DOLLAR PAYMENTS: If you are worried about converting dollars into shekels, or making sure that the deposit on your rental is secure, you can use OlehPay, a really cool new service that allows foreign payers to pay for services without the need of opening an Israeli bank account. You can read more about it here, or create an account.
SELLING CHAMETZ: You can sell Chametz at many shuls, as well as online. We’ll have links to the resources when they become available.
BURNING CHAMETZ: Friday morning, April 22, fires will be burning in parks, parking lots, and street corners everywhere. We’ll share the official municipal list of approved burning stations when it is published.
In Jerusalem, you can eat chametz until 9:50 AM, and burn it until 11:12AM.
“Buying Kosher for Pesach food in Israel- what could be simpler than that?” -Said nobody ever.
We’re not even going to try to tell you what you should and shouldn’t look out for on Pesach. Just know that whether or not you eat Kitniyot, or Gebrucht, or line your kitchen with aluminum foil, we like you however you are. Here are a few resources that can help you be more educated consumers whatever your family traditions are:
RESTAURANTS: We’ll publish links to lists of Kosher for Pesach restaurants around Israel when they become available. Make sure you check out our partner site at Beteavone.com for great coupons throughout the year.
RABBANUT UPDATES: The Chief Rabbinate publishes periodic updates in Hebrew regarding kosher certification. You can see the latest issues here
The OU has great information in English here
MEDICINES: We’ll add a link to official lists of Kosher for Pesach medications when they are published online.
BUYING MATZA: Regular and Shmura matza can be found in nearly every grocery store. You’ll be bombarded with ads for specialty shmura matza orders from your favorite rabbis and organizations as well.
Soft matza, which looks more like a pita than a cracker, and is what most Jews called matza for most of history, is becoming more available and popular in Israel. I haven’t seen it sold in bulk, but find it if you look. We’ll share links when we have them.
SECOND DAY MINYANS: Most minyans around Israel are geared for Israelis keeping one day, but you can find second-day minyans and second seders in many hotels. We’ll share more info when we find it.
Enjoying the holiday
Pesach in Jerusalem is really an incredible experience, and chol hamoed is packed with non-stop activities in every corner.
Make sure you check Janglo’s events calendar for a huge listing of events for every day of pesach and all year round. We’ll share some of the highlights with you here as we get closer, but for now, here’s some of the perennial favorites.
Bircat Cohanim: The Western Wall Plaza fills with tens of thousands of people in the semi-annual priestly blessing, on the second day of Chol HaMoed. That will be Monday, April 25. Usually, shacharit begins 8:30AM, the first blessing is 9:15, and the second blessing around 10AM.
Free Museums: Bank Hapoalim sponsors free admission to dozens of museums around the country all Chol HaMoed long.
The Moshav Modiin Festival is Monday in the famous Carlebach moshav. The bi-annual festival features musicians Shlomo Katz, Shtar, Yehuda Katz, and the Solomon Brothers. Most recommended for Modern Orthodox families with kids.
Yam Bakerach– ice skating at Jerusalem’s Cinema City continues through the end of Pesach. It isn’t the biggest rink in the world, but it makes a nice annual treat for locals.
Tours of the Old City will be available around the clock Chol HaMoed. Follow the signs.
Expect that food will be expensive everywhere you go. Come prepared with your matza sandwiches, water, sunscreen, and a lot of patience.
Don’t forget to check back here as we get closer to Pesach. Chag Sameach!