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The First Pesach

I felt like such a goof-ball.

Until moving to Israel, I had never lived in a large, observant Jewish community. I learned most of my Jewish practices from the small Chabad in Columbia, MD. On the morning before Pesach, we would gather our remaining chumatz, bring it to the shul, and burn it.

A handful of families would show up at the appointed time for the burning. The burning always seemed ad hoc. It rains a lot in Maryland at this time of year; we never had dry wood or cardboard. Hopefully, we had kerosene. Eventually, we would manage to get a fire going and toast some of the chumatz, hoping all the while that the fire department would not show up.

This year, I’m living in Ra’anana. The city has about 80,000 residents and maybe 30% are observant. I am on the e-mail list for a couple of shuls and both shuls send weekly announcements via e-mail. The announcements specified the time by when the chumatz must be burned, but they didn’t specify the location.

I had a meeting with our Rabbi to arrange the sale of the chumatz that would not get burned. While there, I said to him, “Back in Maryland, we burned our chumatz on the morning before Pesach at our shul. Do we do that here?”

Our Rabbi definitely follows the notation that there is no such thing as a stupid question. I was asking if we burn the chumatz here at the shul, but he responded with, “Yes, we do that here in Israel too”. I had goof-ball written all over me.

I tried the question again: “Do we burn the chumatz here at the shul?”

The response: “No, the closest burning location is at the corner of Akiva and Swartz.”

At first, I was confused by this, but then it dawned on me: “Oh, it’s a public burning?” (Now there was goof-ball running down my forehead.)

He had a half-smirk at this point as he explained: “Yes, the municipality sets up several areas where the residents can burn chumatz.”

I thought this was really cool. It was one of those only-in-Israel moments, until I found out that most large Jewish communities have public burning locations set up by the fire department. It’s still very cool.

At the appointed time, I left with our box of chumatz. You could smell the smoke from two blocks away. Within 30 feet of the location, the smoke was so thick it burned your eyes. Burning chumatz is popular. It was not only the observant residence — people were pouring from apartment buildings and walkways carrying bags of bread and cereal. It was truly amazing to me. Some Jews in Israel don’t attend shul, but they still burn chumetz before Pesach.

In the evening, I attended my first seder in Israel. It was very exciting. I arrived home from the shul to the buzz of an excited household — literally. Moments before my arrival, we had some unexpected guests. A swarm of flying queen ants, seemingly attracted by the lights, flew through the screens and descended on our table. It was our very own mini-plague. It took us a while to figure out what to do. By the time I arrived, the windows were already closed, but the ants were crawling all over the table and flying around in the dining area.

Once we figured out that the ants were attracted to the bright lights over the table, we were able to move and reset the table.

It was a different experience this year reading the Haggadah. For instance:

It happened that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva, and Rabbi Tarfon were reclining (at the Seder) in Bnei Brak.

I’ve read this many times before, but “Bnei Brak” was just a name of some place in Israel. Now, I live a 10 minute drive away from Bnei Brak. I literally complain about the traffic on the highway around Bnei Brak. I know children that go to school in Bnei Brak. Wow.

On the topic of Passover and seders, I really have to say Obama is an easy person to despise. He makes it way to easy. How any Jew can support this destroyer is beyond my ability to understand. Wasn’t it just last year, after following the entire traditional seder reading (why is he doing it anyway?), that he refused to include the very last line which reads “Next Year in Jerusalem”. He didn’t want to make the seder “political”. This year, he equates the Muslim uprisings around the world with the meaning of Passover. What an ass. Obama’s new Passover message is here.

Yesterday, we decided to finally visit “Monkey Park”. Monkey Park is a monkey zoo and play area. It has a rustic feel to it (like most things in Israel). We had to drive on a narrow, dirt and gravel road to get to the dirt and gravel parking area. The area was pretty ad hoc, and I had serious fears that we would become boxed-in and would not be able to leave until most of the cars had cleared.

We had a nice time in the park. There were lots of crazy monkeys along with peacocks, goats, and an assortment of children-friendly play areas. The real adult “fun” began when it was time to leave. My fear that our car would get boxed-in was unfounded. However, we had to deal with a different problem. The parking areas must have reached capacity, because people parked on the side of the narrow gravel road leading to the parking area. This effectively left one lane for cars to both enter and exit — which they attempted to do.

About a quarter mile to go...

It was a huge log jam. No one could move back or forward — it was complete dead-lock. I think they had to back out most of the cars trying to enter. Some of the cars were able to advance with maybe a half-inch clearance. I’m sure the observing monkeys were very amused.

We finished the day with a trip to the mall. The food court was open and I couldn’t help but notice this:

Kosher for Passover Burgers!

You’ll notice the top-right corner of the signs: “ארוחות כשרות לפסח” — “Meals Kosher For Passover”. I think mall food courts that sell kosher for Passover fast food can only be found in Israel.

Burger!

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Categories: Food, Holidays, Trips Tags: , ,
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