Spending Passover in Israel
We’re so used to our day-to-day blah winter routine that when Passover creeps around the corner, we’re often taken by surprise. How is it suddenly Spring? And where did the year go? Passover is a time for us to pause from our busy lives, clean out our entire home, as well as our hearts, and start fresh.
Spending Passover with family and friends is a meaningful experience, and there’s no better place to do it than in Israel.
What is it like to spend Passover in Israel?
When you’ve had a long winter, the best way to experience some “pre-Spring” Spring is to head over to Israel for the Passover holiday. The weather in Israel turns from a mild winter to an incredibly warm, and sometimes boiling hot summer, in just a matter of weeks. Of course, if you’re studying abroad in Israel for the semester, Passover often marks the long awaited Spring Break, and brings that warm weather you’ve been craving.
Why should I spend Passover in Israel?
In the times of the Temple, Jews would traditionally travel from all over the world to Jerusalem to celebrate three main holidays, one of which was Passover. Traveling to Israel for Passover is a nod to those glorious times, but more importantly, it allows you to experience the holiday in a whole new way.
The Passover experience in Israel
No other country in the world celebrates the entire holiday of Passover like Israel does. According to Jewish law, leavened bread (think bagels, pretzels, challah and anything with flour and water, really!) is forbidden to be eaten or even owned over Passover. In Israel, you won’t find this category of food, called chametz, being sold in any Jewish-owned grocery or convenience store for the duration of the Passover holiday. In fact, people are so meticulous in keeping this law that from almost a month before Passover, stores begin to section off the aisles containing chometz, and bring out the Passover wine and matza.
You’ll find matza sold everywhere, along with an unfathomable amount of cleaning products. That’s right, traditional spring cleaning probably stems from the holiday of Passover, when Jews around the world, and especially in Israel, clean their homes from top to bottom in an effort to ensure that not a single crumb of chometz remains.
Is it Spring Break over Passover?
Most schools and universities give their Spring Break over Passover, so while housewives and families are busy cleaning, children and teenagers are suddenly out and about. For the entire month of April, every park will be full of children picnicking, teenagers and young students barbecuing and throwing frisbees, and having a great time.
If you're studying abroad in Israel, you'll likely get your spring break over Passover. Thrive students love traveling to Spain, Croatia, France, Italy, Germany, Rome and other European countries, as well as Dubai, Jordan, and Greece. The weather in all of these countries is fantastic over Passover, and the flights are short and relatively cheap. Take a look at these places to travel to from Israel for less than $300 for Spring Break.
What is there to do on Passover in Israel?
The first and last of the seven days of Passover are a public holiday, but the days in between are known as chol hamoed, or the intermediary days. These days are a favorite time for families and friends to go on trips and explore the country. Students often use this time to hike Israel, choosing to explore the beautiful views and vast landscapes that Israel has to offer. One popular hike is yam l’yam, where students hike the width of Israel, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Kineret, over the course of three days. Another popular hike is shvil Yisrael, or the Israel Trail, which is traditionally hiked by IDF soldiers after finishing their draft.
Families enjoy making barbecues in the park, often until past midnight, as most of the parks are lit up for this purpose. Outdoor concerts are a popular destination, as well as shows, private tours and fairs. People use Passover as an opportunity to go on day trips to museums, nature preserves, and accomplish other bucket list items. The beaches all along the Mediterranean Sea and the Kinneret are full of hiking, sunbathing and barbecuing Israelis, and from Eilat in the south to the Hermon in the North, Israel is full of happy, sunburned, traveling Israelis, students, and tourists.
In fact, no matter where you go over Passover, buses and trains will remind you that the holiday is being celebrated, with messages of chag sameach, or Happy Holidays, on every sign and announcement board!
Whatever you choose to do this Passover, if you’re spending it in Israel, your holiday experience will be one of the best you’ve ever experienced.