If you take a stroll along Jerusalem’s main thoroughfare in the days leading up to Passover, you’ll encounter rivers of sudsy water coursing down the pavement, wending its way around upturned tables and chairs that are seemingly discarded. A closer look will reveal workers industriously scrubbing down walls and countertops, and the unmistakable scent of bleach.
In Israel, the advent of Pesach signals a nationwide spring cleaning. These small businesses, eateries, and food chains are gearing up for the yearly Pesach festival, where bread and all chametz (leaven) products are categorically off-limits.
Every corner is power-washed in preparation for this holiday, the Festival of Matzos. Not one of a crumb of bread is spared, as Jews scour the nooks and crannies of their living spaces to ensure that not the slightest speck remains.
There is not a pita, or laffa, or challah roll, to be found.
As Pesach inches closer, the pizza and falafel stores do a brisk business, providing nourishment for a hungry population that has abandoned its regular cooking routine, using every precious hour to clean and shop, clean and shop, repeat, before beginning a flurry of holiday cooking. Government offices close and school is OUT!!!
Racheli from Long Island, who attends the religious Amana branch of Naale Elite Academy in Kfar Saba, remarked, “In Israel, you really feel the atmosphere of Pesach wherever you go. Even if you come from a community with many other Jews, there’s no comparison to the way it is in Israel, with Pesach is the norm.”
Naale High School Programs
Naale is a boarding school program that brings students from across the globe to complete high school in Israel on a full scholarship.
Already in its 28th year, Naale provides a unique opportunity for Jewish youth to experience Israel in the most genuine, down-to-earth way possible. Students learn all subjects on a high level, also in Hebrew, with some eventually integrating with local Israeli high school students.
Naale students experience
“Here in Israel, everyone around you is celebrating,” says Noa, also of Amana. “The buses have special messages wishing you ‘Chag same’ach,’ all the supermarkets sell only food that is kosher for Pesach; you won’t even see any bread. And the fact that there is only one seder doesn’t hurt, either.”
Noa, who was born in England, notes how different it felt where she grew up. “In England, it felt like Pesach when I was at home with my family, but the moment I stepped out the front door it was as if it didn’t exist… It’s so different in Israel. Everywhere you go, you know it’s Pesach. Also, it’s much easier to find all the stuff you need for Pesach here, especially if you eat kitniyot.”
Students from Naale can choose between remaining in Israel with host families or going back to visit their families. Many, both first-year and veteran students, choose to celebrate in Israel for the unique experience it brings. “Pesach is a fantastic opportunity to connect with real Israeli families and gain intimate knowledge of Jewish customs,” remarked Chaim Meyers, Naale’s director of the western world region.
Last year, Sara Friedman of Raanana hosted three Naale students from the Mosenson branch of Naale in Hod Hasharon. She and her family were so enthusiastic, they are looking forward to inviting them back this year, as well. “We love having at our Seder a mix of students from all backgrounds because everyone has something to contribute — a Seder tradition, a song, a recipe. Each person at the Seder contributes in their own way, and each year our Seder has been unique. Last year, at the suggestion of a student, we sat on couches and pillows on the floor, and it was our best Seder yet!”
But it’s not only about the Seder. On Chol Hamoed, it seems that the entire country takes to the national parks, hiking paths, and nature reserves. “In Israel, spring doesn’t just come – it explodes! Everywhere you go there’s greenery and flowers,” Noa enthuses. This year she intends to trek up north with some friends to see the gushing waterfalls, after this year’s extraordinarily plentiful rainfall. “Israel is so compact, you can experience the desert and the mountains in just one day of touring,” she added.