By: Alexis Alexander, Assistant Information Officer, U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Passover begins this Friday evening, and Embassy staff members in Israel — along with much of the country — are preparing for the holidays. With the holiday travel, Embassy Tel Aviv’s non-immigrant visa unit sees an increased in demand for visas in the month leading up to Passover. The State of Israel recognizes the final Friday of the holiday (April 6 this year), and most businesses and government offices are closed or on a skeleton crew, with schools on break.
Israeli citizens take advantage of the holiday to take time off and to travel. Passover is a very special moment for reflection and celebration, as Jewish people from all over the world remember the departure of their ancestors from Egypt with friends and family over the traditional “Passover Seder.” The Seder is a ceremonial meal and retelling of the story of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt and bondage. The centerpiece of any Seder table is the “Seder plate,” a large dish with special compartments that features foods considered essential to the story of the Israelite exodus; a bone, bitter herbs, a sweet dish called “haroset,” a hard-boiled egg, a potato, onion or parsley and (of course) matzah. Matzah is integral to the celebration of the exodus because it symbolizes the haste with which the Israelites departed Egypt (according to the story they had only one day to gather their belongings and leave), since the bread must be cooked in 18 minutes or less to be considered kosher.
This year in advance of Passover, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman and his wife, Mrs. Tammy Friedman, spent a day making matzah with in the Chabad village in central Israel. The Chabad are an ultra-orthodox community who make “shmurah” (or specially supervised) matzah every year and distribute it for use in Seders all over the world.
When asked about his celebration of Passover this year, the Ambassador said “Being here for Passover in Israel is a very special moment for me.” He continued, “Every Pesach (Passover), at the end of the Haggadah (the traditional re-telling of the Passover story), we say ‘ha shanah ha bah b’irusalyim’- next year in Jerusalem. This year because of the great efforts of our administration, particularly our president, when we say ‘ha shanah ha bah b’irushalyim’, it has a special meaning.”
Editor’s Note: This entry originally appeared on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State’s official blog.
For more information:
- Watch the Embassy’s video coverage of Ambassador Friedman’s visit to a Chabad and matzah preparation in advance of the Passover holiday.