Israel prepares for Passover festival
JERUSALEM | Israelis cleaned their houses, cars and offices Monday and cooked furiously in preparation for the weeklong holiday of Passover, which marks the biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.
After that divine blow, the pharaoh gave in and let the Israelites go. They were then given the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai and wandered in the desert for 40 years before arriving in Israel.
The holiday began Monday night with a traditional Seder meal. Extended families typically gather to retell the story of the exodus and eat unleavened bread called matzoh.
The tradition of eating matzoh comes from the Bible’s account that the Jews left Egypt in such a hurry that there was no time to allow the bread to rise. It also is considered the bread of the poor, meant to remind Jews of their ancestors’ hardships. Leavened bread is banned and burned ceremonially before the holiday starts.
Though only about a quarter of Israel’s Jews are Orthodox, most hold a Seder and do not eat leavened bread during the weeklong holiday.
Israeli President Shimon Peres marked the day by visiting the parents of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in their protest tent outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.