Imagine walking through the streets of Tel Aviv a few hours before Passover begins, only to see everyone around you carrying flowers, bottles of wine, gift bags, chocolates and other goodies to bring especially for the seder. As an American woman living in Tel Aviv, I was filled with a feeling of pride when I saw how everyone was preparing for Passover all at the same time. It’s an incredible site to see an entire country coming together as one to celebrate such a sacred Jewish holiday. I can appreciate it all the more compared with my memories of Passover at home, in the US.
Memories last a lifetime
Three sights in particular really left me with a lasting impression. First, I will never forget looking out the car window as my Israeli boyfriend and I drove to his family’s seder. Each car we passed was filled with families and friends who were also on the way to their seders. The streets of Tel Aviv were pretty much empty, aside from a few people walking to their respective seders. It was at this very moment that I realized how special Passover is in Israel.
The second site that I will never forget was the burning of the “chametz” in the street. I was leaving work the morning before Passover and I noticed a cloud of smoke in the air. I thought there might have been a car accident. I asked my friend, “I wonder what happened up there, maybe a car accident?” My friend, who is a native Israeli, responded, “No, it’s just the burning of the chametz. They do it every year at this time, before Pesach begins.” And sure enough, as we passed the smoke filled air, I noticed a huge pile of trash being burned in the street. I will never forget this visual, especially because in the US just a few people from my family’s synagogue gather together to burn the chametz privately. In Israel, however, burning the chametz is just another regular Passover tradition done in public places, an act which I found very unique and uplifting from an American perspective.
The third image which impacted me were the amount of children present at the seder. To me, the presence of children demonstrates growth and strong family values, a feeling which is very common in Israel. Sitting at a seder table with 10 children laughing, singing and reading portions from the Haggadah really showed me how connected the Jews (both religious and non-religious) in Israel are to the holidays.
As the Pesach sedar continued, I began to really feel as one with Israel. And, as I sat down at the beautifully decorated seder table set for 25 guests, I felt like the luckiest woman in the world to be celebrating such a special holiday in the Jewish homeland.
Spending Passover in Israel has been a truly uplifting, eye-opening experience. With that in mind, I hope that everyone reading this should get to spend at least one Passover in Israel, and to feel the pride that a united Jewish country has during the holidays.