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Seventeen Ways You Know Passover Is Coming in Jerusalem
by Judy Lash Balint
Australian Jewish Review
April 13, 2003

1. No alarm clock needed here--we have the clanging of the garbage trucks as they roll through the neighborhood every morning during the two weeks before Pesach to accomodate all the refuse from the furious cleaning going on in every household. The day before the seder they make their rounds at least twice during the day.

2. Street scenes change every day according to what's halachically necessary: For the week before the holiday, yeshiva students wielding blow torches and tending huge vats of boiling water are stationed every few blocks and in the courtyard of every mikveh. The lines to toyvel(dunk) cutlery, kiddush cups and the like, start to grow every day, and, at the last minute, blow torches are at the ready to cleanse oven racks and stove tops of every last gram of chametz.

3. The day of the seder, the yeshiva students are replaced by families using empty lots to burn the remainders of their chametz gleaned from the previous night's meticulous search. Street corner flower vendors do great business too.

4. Most flower shops stay open all night for the two days before Pesach, working feverishly to complete the orders that will grace the nation's seder tables.

5. Meah Shearim and Geula merchants generally run out of heavy plastic early in the week before Pesach. This year there was a particular run on the stuff due to Iraq war preparations. In a panic, I make an early morning run to the Machane Yehuda market to succesfully snap up a few meters of the handy material.

6. No holiday here is complete without a strike or two. Last year, the doctors came to agreement to end their month long walkout just hours before the start of Pesach and gas suppliers at Ben Gurion airport decided to use the opportunity to cause havoc to the plans of 200,000 Israelis who travel abroad for the holiday. A wildcat strike caused delays in arrivals and departures at the airport too. Just so we shouldn't lose the momentum, this year the Histadrut Labor federation threatened to launch a general strike 10 days before the holiday to protest the planned economic cuts. Last minute negotiations cancelled the dreaded event--probably until the eve of the next holiday.

7. Good luck if you haven't scheduled an appointment for a pre-Pesach/Omer haircut. You can't get in the door at most barber and beauty shops.

Observant Jews mark the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot by carrying out some of the laws of mourning--one of these is the prohibition against cutting hair.

8. Mailboxes are full of Pesach appeals from the myriad of organizations helping the poor celebrate Pesach. Newspapers are replete with articles about selfless Israelis who volunteer by the hundreds in the weeks before the holiday to collect, package and distribute Pesach supplies to the needy.

9. The biggest food challenge to those of us ashkenazic, non-kitniyot (legume) eaters is finding cookies etc. made without kitniyot. Most years, many restaurants in the city stayed open, offering special Pesach menus--most without kitniyot, to accomodate the largely ashkenazic tourist population that used to be their bread and butter (matzo & butter?) This year, with the dearth of tourists, most restaurants don't find it worthwhile to stay open, so we'll end up spending most meals at home.

10. Since most of the country is on vacation for the entire week of Pesach, all kinds of entertainment and trips are on offer, despite the jihad being waged against us. Ads appear for everything from the annual Boombamela beach festival, a graffiti fest in Beersheva, kid's activities at the Bloomfield Science Museum and concerts in Hebron.

11. Pesach with its theme of freedom and exodus always evokes news stories about recent olim. This year, emigration numbers are significantly down, but there are still Jews from Argentina and France who have arrived in Israel in recent months to fill up absorption centers in Ashkelon and Beersheva.

12. This just in: According to Israel's Brandman Research Institute study, 43 million people hours will be spent nationwide in Israel's cleaning preparations for Passover this year. How does that break down? Of those cleaning hours, 29 million are done by women and 11 million by men. Persons paid to clean do the remaining 3 million hours at a cost of NIS 64 million ($15.6 million).

13. On erev Pesach, dozens of members of various movements intent on preserving our connection to the Temple, re-enact the ritual Pesach sacrifice on Jerusalem's Givat Hananya. The hill is located in the neighborhood of Abu Tor and is named for the High Priest Hananya of the Second Temple period. Participants emphasize that their slaughter and roasting of a young goat is a preface to making the sacrifice, since they are wary of creating the impression that they are renewing the sacrificial act outside the Temple Mount.

14. Israel's chief rabbis sell the nation's chametz to an Arab resident of Abu Ghosh. Estimated worth: 150 million shekel (about $28 million).

15. The nation's cars have never looked so clean. Up until everyone took their cars for their Pesach spruce-up, most cars in the country looked the same color--a grungy, yellowish brown. This because of a wet winter, followed by a few heavy-duty sandstorm days, and then tree-pollen shedding season. Now, we can see that there really are white, silver and pale blue vehicles in Israel

16. Radio commercials for all sorts of products and services are set to seder tunes. A favorite is "Echad Mi Yodeya?--Who Knows One?" that has become a jingle for one brand of coffee. "Four mothers, three fathers, two sugars....."

17. A sign of our difficult economic times--supermarkets entice shoppers with a promise to allow us to settle up the bill in six equal monthly payments on the credit card. Yes, many of us will still be paying for the seder come Rosh Hashana!