11 April 2018

Passover, a Jewish festival remembered at a meal.

The significance of Passover in Jerusalem. We visit the home of a Jewish woman to discover the role of food in this ancient feast.

Archaeology, Culture, and other Religions

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Easter has been celebrated in Jerusalem, and in a convergence of calendars, Pesach, or Passover, has been observed more or less at the same time as the Christian celebrations.

The celebrations begin on the evening between the 14th and15th of the Jewish month of Nissàn, a date which fell this year on March 30th, coinciding with Good Friday, and lasting for eight days ending on Friday, April 6th.

Studium Biblicum Franciscanum

Even if there is a certain discrepancy from a chronological point of view, it is clear from the Gospels that Jesus died and rose again precisely during the period of Passover. Being in Jerusalem at the time, when a lamb was sacrificed, Jesus became the new and Sacrificial Lamb, to “pass over” into the incomparable significance of Easter.

Passover is rich in unfolding ritual. As Michael Sierra, a young Jew in Jerusalem, explains, a basic intention is to hand down to succeeding generations the memory of Passover through answering traditional questions. In this heritage, each Jew sees himself as being among the very Hebrews who set forth from Egypt.

The story of liberation from slavery is central to the Seder, the Passover meal, which is shared on the first evening of the festival. Lines from the scroll of Exodus are analyzed at table, according to a rite known as the Haggadah. “Why is this night different from any other,” askes the youngest child present. And he is answered in an unfolding story.

We also met Mirella, a Jewish woman, of Swiss origin, who came to Israel 40 years ago, and who welcomed us into her kitchen.

“We are here to prepare special Passover food. Everything has been made ready, as you might be able to see, and special care has been taken to ensure that there is not the slightest trace of yeast anywhere. This traditional precaution recalls, of course, the hasty departure by the Jews of Egypt, there having been no time to bake bread for which yeast is required. And so, in memory of this absence of bread, we eat Matzah, or unleavened bread, throughout Passover.

During Pesach we eat special traditional dishes, I will show you what we ate in my parents’ home, as well as what is eaten by other families.

Two typical dishes are pasta in broth, prepared only with egg and starch, and balls kneaded in flour made from finely ground matzah and cooked in a frying pan.

Even utensils, such as an old broth colander inherited from grandparents, add to a memory of a people, as do family recollections.