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October 30, 2014 | 6th Cheshvan 5775

The Season of our Liberation

Galilee Diary #533, April 27, 2011
Marc Rosenstein

And when you enter the land that the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children ask you, "What do you mean by this rite?" You shall say, "It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, because He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses."
         -Exodus 12:25-27

Notes on Passover in the land, 2011:

Schools close a week before the holiday, for a two week vacation. For many families this is a disaster, as the parents cannot take off work, and child care can be a daunting challenge. So there are short-term day camps provided by community centers, youth group excursions, etc., as well as a certain amount of chaos, juggling, frustration, and TV.

The weeks before Passover are boom times for housepainters, appliance dealers, and houseware shops, as a kind of frenzy of spring cleaning and renewal sets in, often with no clear relationship or proportion to the religious requirement of removing chametz (leavened bread).

The supermarkets in Jewish towns generally remove or cover all items that are not kosher for Passover. Every year Jewish food technology advances, so there are fewer and fewer foods that are not available kosher-for-Passover (a trend that some love and some hate).

Meanwhile, the bakeries in Arab towns and villages are very busy during Passover, supplying the needs of the many Jews who do not observe the prohibition of eating chametz.

Despite warnings published in the media and announced over loudspeakers at the border crossing, over 20,000 Israelis went to Egypt for Passover, camping and scuba diving in Sinai. Meanwhile 300,000 headed for Turkey, Greece, and points north and west. And these numbers don't seem to have been seriously affected by matters of diplomacy or even by revolutions.

One day during the holiday we went to a mall, to shop for the patio furniture we'd been promising ourselves. If one doesn't shop on Shabbat, and works on Sunday, it is often hard to find time to make such non-routine, non-local purchases. Needless to say, we were not alone there. As we drove out of the parking garage around noon, the line of cars waiting to enter stretched for blocks. Not only shopping, but craft activities for the kids were offered, and half of the films in 23-plex cinema were animated features.

The next day we left for a two-day camping trip in the Golan Heights. We planned carefully, trying to figure out how to avoid the crowds. The dramatic canyons of the northern Golan are a huge attraction, so we opted for the more moderate trails above the southeastern quadrant of the Kinneret. Here too we were by no means alone, but our planning paid off and there were sections of trail where it was just us - and the JNF campsite where we camped was gratifyingly empty. And we somehow managed to avoid the horrendous highway traffic jams to and from the Galilee and Golan that are characteristic of Passover. But with or without company on the trail, the views, the foliage, the soaring hawks and storks, the play of sun and clouds (and rain) over the Kinneret below us - all contributed to a feeling of spring renewal and liberation.

Some people would argue that we "liberated" the Golan in 1967. Others claim that the Golan will be "liberated" when we negotiate a peace treaty and return the Heights to Syria.  In that day of redemption we will cross the border freely for our camping trip (like we do to Jordan and Egypt) and reminisce about the days when we were slaves to an outmoded, irrational world order.

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