This year in Jerusalem Passover is celebrated in strange, meaningful ways

by Shani Ben-David

After this very unusual, small Seder that we had, it was almost with a sense of guilt that my friends and I admitted that it was kind of nice. 

Paz received her engagement ring in the Afikoman.

Paz received her engagement ring in the Afikoman.

We didn’t have to change a whole bunch of dishes: a couple of plates and soup bowls for meat and dairy. We didn’t clean out the kitchen cabinets. Everything we needed was on the countertop.

Everyone I spoke to enjoyed their small seders: my friend Rita who couldn’t have her daughter and family over did a zoom Seder with her family in Malmo.

Rivka zoomed with her daughter’s family in Kiryat Yovel (a suburb of Jerusalem) and Sharon’s daughter came to stay with her for several days before the curfew began and we could no longer travel from one city to another here in Israel. 

We all said how nice it was to read the Haggadah from cover to cover and get to sing all the songs. There seemed to be much more continuity to what we were reading. It seemed to make more sense than those large and noisy seders. I adore my kids and grandchildren but four kids under the age of 5 doesn’t allow for really listening to what we are reading. Seeing as how all the kids were so concerned and worried about us being alone, how could I admit to them that this was different, but meaningful?

As for the afikoman (the tradition of hiding a piece of Matza for the children to find) we got a real surprise. Our youngest son Omri and his girlfriend Paz were having their own small seder. He hid the afikoman and Paz found it, along with an engagement ring! That never would have happened at a large family Seder.

Dani's boys, Noam and Adar Ben David "isolating" on their moshav, Ramat Raziel

Dani’s boys, Noam and Adar Ben David “isolating” on their moshav, Ramat Raziel

The following day we took a walk in our neighborhood. It was quieter than Yom Kippur, almost no cars or people out. Moti sat down on a bench after a while and waited for me. I warned him not to touch it.  I continued and saw something that reminded me of Italy’s balcony arias: a “balcony minyan,” a tall new building, on almost every balcony was an Orthodox man wrapped in a talit, (prayer shawl) davening. (bowing up and down in prayer) It was the first time I’d seen anything like this and it was quite a sight. They sounded very good, in their old Ashkenazi style. I stayed and listened for a while. The only thing that hampered my enjoyment was that we are all a little angry these days at the ultra-orthodox for not following regulations from the start. They see their rabbis not only as authorities on Halacha (Jewish Law) and ritual matters, but on everything and it took their rabbis about a week to comply with the government regulations on the pandemic and many people came down with Covid-19 because theyweren’t being compliant soon enough. Their late reaction put us all at risk.

Shani and Moti Ben-David live in Jerusalem.

Editor’s Note: The brackets are an explanation of the Hebrew terms.)

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This year in Jerusalem Passover is celebrated in strange, meaningful ways"

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