Story of Pesach
I am sure you have heard the story of Pesach (also known as Passover). The year is 1300 BC. The Jews were slaves in Egypt. One day Moses is chasing after a missing lamb when he sees a miraculous burning bush. Here G-d speaks to Moses saying “Go down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let my people go!”. Moses and his brother Aaron go to Pharaoh and tell him to free the Jews – but he refuses. G-d releases 10 plagues, each worse than the last, and finally Pharaoh let’s the Jews go.
Before Pharaoh changes his mind, Moses gathers the Jews and they leave in a hurry. But it’s too late, and the Egyptian army chase after the Jews. The Jews reach the sea, and they can’t pass. Moses bangs his walking stick on the floor and the sea parts, letting the Jews through. The Eyptians try to follow, but the sea comes crashing down on them. The Jews are free!
Traditions of Pesach
In Israel Pesach lasts for 7 days and nights (outside Israel it lasts for 8 days and nights). As per the Jewish calendar, the day starts at sunset and finishes at sunset the next day.
In commemoration that the Jews left in a hurry, Jews shouldn’t eat bread during Pesach – instead eating unleavened bread called Matzah. As well as not eating bread, Jews shouldn’t eat any chametz, which is the five grains: wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye – or any foods or drinks derived from these grains, including beer, gin, and whisky (vodka is ok if made from potatoes)! Ashkenazi Jews also shouldn’t eat rice! Don’t worry if you don’t keep to this, there are many restaurants and bars in Tel Aviv that serve regular food and drink during Pesach.
On the first evening of Pesach there is a large family dinner, called Seder. During the Seder some Jews do a lot of praying (others less) followed by a large meal. Outside of Israel the second night is also a Seder night. The first day is also a public holiday, with most Jews not working (outside Israel the first two days are holidays).
The week of Pesach is called Chol Hamoed. While a lot of companies do work during the week, some companies offer staff time off to be with their family etc (schools are closed). There are loads of activities going on during the week in Tel Aviv.
The day after Pesach Moroccan Jews celebrate Mimouna, with tables full of cakes and breads. Throughout Tel Aviv there are usually Mimouna parties.
Synagogues in Tel Aviv For Pesach
If you are looking for a synagogue during Pesach, check out Secret Tel Aviv’s ‘Guide to Olim Friendly Synagogues’.
Like on Shabbat and other Holidays, the first and last days of Pesach kosher bars and restaurants are closed and there is no public transportation. There are some restaurants that offer a Kosher L’Pesach menu.