Monday, May 05, 2008

How Israelis Plan To Celebrate Passover, 2008

Israelis have always had a "love-hate" affair when comes to the 7 day holiday known as Pesach (Passover) or Hag HaAviv (Festival of Spring) to secular folk. Pesach is one of Judaism's most beautiful and important festivals as it commemorates the Jew's freedom from slavery under the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramsis II, more than 3,000 years ago. Like Thanksgiving in America, the Passover Seder is one of the best times for families to be together to enjoy this holiday and eat the foods that God commanded their forbearers to eat as they left Egypt for what turned out to be 40 years of wandering through the wilderness of Sinai.

For some Israelis, however, Pesach is not the joyous and meaningful festival that it should be, and many go abroad for the week to escape having to eat matzah or unleavened bread and other foods deemed Kosher for Pesach. Recently, more and more restaurants and stores have begun offering bread products, including pita, pizza, and even baguettes to those who want them. This now includes large supermarkets as well as small convenience stores, many of which are run by non-religious kibbutzim. Enforcing the existing law concerning the selling and eating of "hametz" (leavened bread and other non-kosher for Pesach products) has been difficult, and many businesses, including a large supermarket chain, simply pay fines as a "cost of doing business".

Enter Pesach 2008. Due to objections in the existing laws by secular Israelis, a Jerusalem court judge issued a decree that in some instances the existing "Passover Law" will not be binding for private establishments who are not considered as "public arenas". This means that breads and other "hametz" products will now be allowed to be sold in grocery stores, restaurants and pizza parlors, etc., and that beer will flow freely in all the pubs (as if it hasn't already up to now!). While this has made a lot of secular people happy, religious and traditional Jews feel just the opposite as this edict clearly violates a very old and important tenet of Judaism.

Or does it? Those who intend to keep Kosher for Pesach wouldn't eat or drink in most of the establishments who will serve "hametz" as many of them are already non-kosher and are open during the year on Shabbat and religious holidays; serving non-kosher foods, including pork and shellfish. This being the case, there's really no reason for these types of establishments to have to be Kosher for Pesach anyway, since serving non-kosher pepperoni pizzas prepared on matzos instead of normal pizza dough is a bit superfluous.

The bottom line is the personal consciousness of people; and being forced to do something they really don't care to do is not going to change them. Anyway, it's been estimated that at least 70% of all Jews in Israel will forsake their pizzas and falafels for a week and be none the worse off for it. In fact they will do this proudly, out of respect for their faith and tradition.

As for the remaining 30%, hopefully some of you will get the message and join your Jewish brethren in observing a truly unique and wonderful religious tradition to celebrate our release from human bondage into freedom.

Hag Pesach Semach!

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