Making our First Pesach in Israel During Corona

Last year, we were fortunate enough to spend Pesach up north and visit the surrounding areas, walk every trek and hike of the beautiful Golan Heights, so much so that some friends advised us to “save some for next year.”

Of course there was no way to imagine that the following year we would be spending Pesach as well as the weeks leading to the holiday in confinement of varying degrees, some days stricter than others depending on the government guidelines for those days. Preparing Pesach for the first time in Israel, during a pandemic, with limited places to shop was somewhat of a challenge. Food shopping was certainly an experience. First we’d wait a while to get into the store until the attendant took our temperature and gave the green light to enter. Whoever thinks Israelis don’t understand lines is mistaken. All I saw since the onset of this epidemic, was Israelis that are disciplined when shopping, either standing in line or ordering online.

Once in the store I’d try to read the unfamiliar labels to figure out if it was Kosher-for-Passover (often), kitniyot-free (almost never) and of course gluten-free or non-gebrokt. Then you have hechshers like badatz that give a hechsher but it specifically says “not including pesach”. So I assumed it wasn’t k-f-p until I figured out it was actually k-f-p just not stamped by badatz for Pesach. But another organization did stamp it k-f-p so it was likely ok. I would return home with a headache both from reading tiny labels, trying to figure out what they mean literally and practically, and of course from the mask (scarf) that covered half my face.

But by the time Wednesday rolled around we were fully ready, we had found most of our Passover kitchenware among our still-unopened boxes from NY, and I even had time to attend a pre-pesach 6pm bar mitzvah in the US via Zoom.

We missed celebrating Pesah with family and friends but all in all the Seder was beautiful, everyone had questions and Divrei Torah and we even made up our own version of Chad Gadia for 2020. The highlight of the Seder was going outside at 8:30pm to sing with the rest of the block, and of Israel, “Ma Nishtana”. The irony of singing “What is Different” was of course not lost on me or any of us.

Here we were outside of our homes; Ashkenaz, Sephardic, religious and less religious, large families and smaller ones but all of us together, one People. My neighbor is an elderly lady whose husband ended up going to the hospital the day before Seder for a non Corona-condition and she therefore had to spend Seder night alone. She didn’t come out to join but I know she heard us and at that moment, felt less alone.

Aside from the anxiety of hearing more bad news after the chag, more numbers, the trepidation with which we reach for our phones post-chag; watching the various neighborhood ma-nishtanas (sung in unison but not communally) all over Israel, on social media, is somewhat of a consolation and is a testament to the spirit of this great nation.

Sending virtual hugs to those mourning and wishes for a speedy recovery to the sick. Please G.d we will overcome. Until then, wishing you all a Happy Passover.


Badatz: acronym for beit din tsedek in Hebrew or “court of justice”. They are one of the leading hechsher organization in Israel

Hechsher: certifies that an item is kosher. Different organizations grant these certifications and people often choose to hold by some and not others.

Chad Gadia: Fun song in mostly Aramaic that is found at the end of the Haggadah or book used during the Passover seder.

Chag: holiday, specifically here the part of Passover where we refrain from using our electronic devices.

Pesach: Passover

Non-Gebrokt: Stringency of avoiding wet matzah on Passover. For my purposes, I am assured an item is gluten-free if it is certified non-gebrokt at Passover time.

Ma-Nishtana: Song sung during the Passover seder, often by the children, which consists of 4 questions that start with the words “ma-nishtana” or “what is different”

Divrei-Torah: Words of Torah or in this case Thoughts on the Hagaddah or Jewish thought that relate to this holiday.

Hagaddah: Book we read during Seder night.

About the Author
Valerie was born and raised in Paris, completed her BA (YU Stern) and MBA (NYU Stern) in NYC, was living in Riverdale NY with her husband and 4 kids before they moved to Raanana, Israel in January 2019. In NY Valerie worked in Marketing for various companies, owned and operated an online store, and taught "Global Marketing" and "Managing the Fashion Enterprise" at LIM College. She is now employed at the Raphael Recanati International School of Reichman University (previously IDC Herzliya).
Related Topics
Related Posts