Monday, April 9, 2012

4/7/12: Passover in the Holy Land

"B'shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim" (Next year in Jerusalem), a phrase us Jews recite and hear every year as we go through the Passover Seder which retells the story of Moses and the exodus out of slavery in Egypt and into the promised land. As familiar as this phrase is it is almost unreal to think that this year I lived up to it and spent my first Passover in the land that my people were brought to thousands of years ago; though I was not technically in Jerusalem I think the phrase really applies to all of Israel in general.

First thing is first when it comes to Pesach... Getting rid of all the Chometz in the apartment (breads, pastas, cookies, and a number of other things that make up most of my diet that are deemed inappropriate to eat during this glorious holiday). Lucky for me, however, I live in a place that makes Kosher for Passover shopping very, very easy. When My roommates and I went to the supermarket I briefly forgot that I was living in a Jewish country and therefore was quite surprised that there were huge sections of the supermarket blocked off. Even though not everyone keeps kosher for passover, Israelis wanted to make sure that those of us who do know exactly where NOT to shop :-) Needless to say, it was a much easier shopping experience than past years, and there was no chance of places running out of Matzah (that happened one year in Berkeley). In fact, they only sold 5 pound boxes, and had plenty of them for the entire Middle East!

When the Chag (holiday) shopping was complete we had to dash back home in order to get ready for Lilah Seder at Bar's (my roommate Ben's girlfriend) grandparent's house in Kfar Saba (a neighboring Israeli town). I was so excited to meet Bar's family and experience my first authentic, Israeli Seder. I was a little nervous about the fact that I was going to a place where the company spoke only Hebrew, but it turned out to be great practice! When Ben, Morgan, and I arrived at Bar's house we went through introductions with her immediate family and then we were off to her grandparent's house.

Bar's mom and dad expected there to be more traffic on the roads due to the holiday so we left with plenty of time to spare... A little too much time to be honest. We arrived at Bar's grandparents house just as her Saba (grandfather) was leaving for temple. We all went inside, met Bar's grandmother, and waited patiently for the rest of her family to arrive. To pass the time we thought it would be fun to watch the food channel, not really giving much thought to the fact that every item of delicious food they were showing we could no longer eat for the next 8 days... Pizza, 20 pound hamburgers, cupcakes, and so on. We were all so, so hungry and this show was not helping! After about 45 minutes, or so, Bar's family began to trickle in, and once her grandfather arrived home it was time to begin Lilah Seder.

When everyone was seated and situated around the long table the adults began to hand out the Haggadot (book that tells the story of Pesach) so that we could all begin. I don't know if it was pure chance, or some kind of divine intervention, but I couldn't believe the Haggadah I was given. For starters, it was a Haggadah from Istanbul, Turkey, the country I will be visiting tomorrow. I have never paid much attention to Turkey but ever since I decided to visit there I have been overwhelmed with the beauty and history of the country. Secondly, the Haggadah was in both Hebrew and French, and if you have been keeping up with my blogs you know that I have a recently discovered obsession with all things French! I found it very interesting that that specific Haggadah fell into my hands :-)

Due to the fact that EVERYTHING in Israel is done at a quicker pace than in America, I shouldn't have been surprised that the Seder began only to finish about 10 minutes later. I feel like we barely did the Four Questions and we were on to dessert! I was starving so I appreciated the rapidity with which the seder was conducted, but I did miss the way we used to do it at home, with my Zayde leading, my dad, uncle and an assortment of their friends having a little too much Plum Brandy, and so on. I did, however, like that it was all in Hebrew; it made for a very interesting experience. When all was said and done we had a chance to relax and hang out with Bar's family, and let me tell you, they are a such a trip! Her aunts and uncles were all so sweet and welcoming, we were able to talk with some of the cousins, and it turned out to be a really perfect first night of the Chag.

I couldn't have asked for anything more from my first Pesach in Israel, and it only made me fall more and more in love with the country and the people I have met while being here. I know everyone is probably sick of hearing me say how amazing this place is, but everyday it truly gets better and better (if that is even possible).

Tomorrow night I fly to Turkey so stay tuned for lots of posts and even more pictures!

Tisba7 3ala khier ya chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone 

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