Passover Eve in Israel
Passover Eve, also known as Erev Pesach in Hebrew, is a significant occasion in Israel as it marks the beginning of the Passover holiday. The event commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt, as described in the biblical story of Exodus.
Passover Eve in Israel usually falls in March or April, as it is determined by the Jewish lunar calendar. The holiday begins on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nissan and lasts for seven days in Israel (and eight days in the Diaspora).
The celebration of Passover in Israel dates back to biblical times when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. According to the Book of Exodus, God inflicted ten plagues upon the Egyptians, culminating in the death of the firstborn. To protect the Israelites from this final plague, they were instructed to mark their doorposts with the blood of a sacrificed lamb. Seeing this mark, the angel of death would "pass over" the marked houses, sparing the firstborn of the Israelites. Hence, the holiday's name, Passover.
Following their liberation from Egypt, the Israelites were commanded to observe Passover annually to remember their redemption from slavery. The modern nation of Israel, established in 1948, continues to uphold this tradition.
National customs for Passover Eve in Israel
One of the most important customs observed on Passover Eve in Israel is the Seder, a festive meal during which the story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt is retold. The Seder table is set with symbolic foods, such as matzah (unleavened bread), maror (bitter herbs), and charoset (a mixture of fruits, nuts, and wine). Each food item represents a specific aspect of the Israelites' experience in Egypt.
During the Seder, the Haggadah, a text that recounts the story of the Exodus, is read aloud. This allows participants to engage in the retelling of the story, ask questions, and discuss its relevance to their lives.
Another national custom in Israel is the removal and avoidance of chametz (leavened food) during the Passover holiday. In the days leading up to Passover, Israelis clean their homes to eliminate any traces of chametz. Many also participate in a ritual called "bedikat chametz," a search for any remaining leavened products the night before Passover Eve.
Local customs for Passover Eve in Israel
While the customs mentioned above are observed by Jews across Israel, there are some variations in the way Passover Eve is celebrated among different communities. For instance, some Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews include additional symbolic foods on their Seder plates, such as rice, beans, or other legumes, which are not consumed by Ashkenazi Jews during Passover.
In some communities, there is a tradition of reenacting the story of the Exodus during the Seder, with participants dressing up as the biblical characters or using props to represent the plagues. This interactive approach to telling the story helps to engage younger participants and make the events of the Exodus more tangible.
Passover Eve, or Erev Pesach, is a significant event in Israel that marks the beginning of the Passover holiday. The customs and traditions surrounding this occasion serve as a way for Israelis to remember their ancestors' liberation from slavery in Egypt and to pass on the story to future generations. Through the celebration of Passover Eve, the story of the Exodus remains alive and relevant, connecting the modern nation of Israel to its ancient roots.