Visiting Jerusalem during Passover, Easter

By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

EN ROUTE TO SAN DIEGO — I am writing this onboard a Swissair flight to Los Angeles. After we arrive at LAX we will pick up a rental car and drive to San Diego. (I understand why it is more economical to fly out of LAX, but it is nevertheless frustrating.)

Every time we visit Israel I am surprised at how much more westernized (civilized?) the country has become. Before we left we had to mail a parcel at the Post Office. I dreaded going because on past visits the Post Office was always a balagan (mass confusion). I was pleasantly surprised that the postal service had installed an electronic ticketing system.

Everyone patiently waited until their number was displayed on a video monitor that directed them to the number of the next available agent. Even in Machane Yehuda, the outdoor market, people waited their turn to be served instead of muscling to the front of the line.

Since we were in Jerusalem for Easter, we decided to visit the Christian Quarter of the Old City to see how the holiday was celebrated. I was a bit disappointed, as we did not see religious processions of pilgrims along the Via Dolorosa, but rather the usual clusters of tour groups with guides visiting the holy sites.

There was, however, a crush of visitors at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where much needed renovations were recently completed. Back at the apartment we did witness a group of Christian pilgrims from Africa going by in their white holiday finery.

I have never visited Israel without bumping into people I know. This trip was no exception. On the streets of Jerusalem we ran into Jane and Dr. Colin Scher. Jane has been an active leader in the San Diego Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation for many years. The Schers were also celebrating Pesach in Israel.

Although we were not able to meet in person, we video chatted with former Tifereth Israel Synagogue member Sally Richerson. Sally visited Israel with us on a synagogue mission some time ago and made aliyah seven years ago. Sally at first lived in Be’er Sheva, then moved to the small city of Arad near the Dead Sea. She loves her life in Israel and fills her days with friends, gardening, photography, and tutoring English.

It is amazing how quickly Jerusalem transforms from Pesachdik to chametzdik. Within an hour or two after the holiday the restaurants are open and filled with freshly baked bread and cakes. The streets are filled with people eager to break their Passover “fast.” For the gelato stands, however, business is pretty much the same as during the holiday. They only need to roll out the waffle cones because most of the ice cream is Kosher for Passover as well as the rest of the year.

At the conclusion of Pesach, Moroccan Jews celebrate Mimouna. Mimouna is festive party in which special pastries and sweets that were forbidden during Passover are eaten. The ubiquitous Mimouna treat is Mufleta, a multi-layered fried bread that is covered with honey and other toppings.

We visited a public Mimouna sponsored by the city of Jerusalem in an event space in Nachlaot near Machane Yehudah. Unfortunately, the line was long for the complimentary Mufleta, but we did enjoy seeing the people celebrating and the live music.

I still remember the sadness I felt when I left Jerusalem on the way to the airport after spending my Junior year of college at Hebrew University. Each time I leave Israel I feel the same way and this time was no different.

It has been six years since Judy and I last visited Israel. I hope that we will not wait as long before making our next trip.

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Rabbi Rosenthal is the retiring spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego. He may be contacted via [email protected]

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