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International Student’s Guide to Preparing for Passover

Things to keep in mind before and during Passover for all who are

Passover or Pesach is a major Jewish Holiday which is typically observed for eight days. It begins on the 15th day of Hebrew month of Nissan.

This year it is from evening of Wed, April 5, 2023 - evening of Wed, April 12, 2023.

You probably remember that in the Hebrew calendar, a new day is from nightfall to nightfall, as mentioned in our earlier post about Shabbat.

The significance of Pesach:

Pesach is one of the three pilgrimage holidays of the Jewish people. The other two are Shavuot and Sukkot. ‘Pilgrimage holidays’ commemorate both agricultural festivals and historical events. These traditionally provided opportunity for ancient Israelites to travel to the ancient temple in Jerusalem, as prescribed in the Torah. Passover celebrates the new planting season after the winter rains in Israel and commemorates the liberation of enslaved Israelites from tyrannical Pharoah in Egypt as per the story of Exodus. International students might better recognize Exodus as the story where Moses first appears and is guided by God to lead his people out of slavery to the ‘Promised Land’. It has that iconic scene where God divides the Red Sea for his people to pass through and then restores the sea causing the enemies to drown, among others. The story is riveting and as a cinephile friend of mine put it, 'very Tarantino’.

Over time, a lot of art, literature and many movies have been inspired by the Exodus. Our favorite is Prince of Egypt and we’re having a screening on 9th April, 2023.

Things to Remember:

1. The first and last days are celebrated as legal holidays and as holy days. There won’t be any public transport on these days, in addition to Shabbat in the intervening period. So, plan your travels accordingly and double check.

2. For Jewish people, working is not permitted on the first two days of Passover nor on the final two days of the festival. The intervening days are known as Chol HaMoed "Weekdays [of] the Festival" and it is not strictly forbidden to work but most people take the time off, many businesses are shut the entire week. If you have any work scheduled for those days, it’s best to get it done before hand or confirm availability of whoever you are likely to need.

3. Banks have staggered timings during this period, you could check it out here

4. So, the story goes that the Israelites had to leave for the ‘Promised Land’ on such short notice that they did not even have the time to let the bread rise and thus only ate unleavened bread. During Passover, only unleavened breads (flatbreads prepared without using rising agents such as yeast) are available and in fact, grocery stores take down or hide such items that are traditionally forbidden during this period. Basically, you might want to stock up on Bread, Beer and Pasta.

5. Many bakeries and restaurants will be closed. Here’s a helpful guide to which places might be open, but it would be advisable to stock up on ingredients and try and cook your own food during this period, otherwise, expect it to get very expensive, very quickly.

6. Many people prefer to travel abroad during Pesach and you could too! But you have been warned that the flight prices are going to surge so book in advance. If you plan on travelling within Israel, make sure to book as hotels and hostels get filled up very quickly.

7. The good news is that it will be great weather for you to be out and about! In fact, we're having a sunset bike ride event for international students that you could join. Other than that, a lot of public places, especially museums are open to public free of cost. There’s a ton of beaches you could visit and other fun stuff you could do.

8. During this period, you might hear these words a lot so just to get you acquainted:

  • Chag Pesach Sameach -- Happy Passover

  • Haggadah -- It is the Hebrew word for 'telling' or 'recounting' and refers to the book used to tell the story of the Exodus at the seder.

  • Chametz -- Bread or any food that has been leavened or contains a leavening agent and is prohibited during Passover.

  • Matzah -- Unleavened bread.

We hope this blog was helpful, if we have forgotten anything, please mention in the comments. Check out more blogs on the website and thank you so much for being here!

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