Israelis gather for Passover, celebrating freedom from virus

Passover is the Jewish holiday celebrating the biblical Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt after a series of divine plagues. The week-long springtime festival starts Saturday night with the highly ritualized Seder meal, when the Exodus story is retold. It’s a Thanksgiving-like atmosphere with family, friends, feasting and four cups of wine.

Throughout the week, observant Jews abstain from the consumption of bread and other leavened foods to commemorate the hardships of the flight from Egypt. Instead, they eat unleavened matzah.

Holiday preparations involve spring cleaning to the extreme to remove even the tiniest crumbs of leavened bread from homes and offices. Cauldrons of boiling water are set up on street corners to boil kitchenware, and many burn their discarded bread, known as chametz. Supermarkets cordon off aisles with leavened goods, wrapping shelves in black plastic.

Most Israeli Jews — religious and secular alike — spend the Seder with extended family. Last year’s Passover was a major break in tradition.

Government-imposed restrictions forced the closure of synagogues and limited movement and assembly to slow the virus’ spread. Some conducted the ritual meal with their nuclear family, others over videoconference, while an unfortunate few held the Seder in solitude.

Source: Israelis gather for Passover, celebrating freedom from virus