Passover: also known as Pesach is a long standing Jewish festival celebrating the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt over 3,300 years ago and my Israeli version of Spring Break.
As any other student the break was much welcomed and held within it a few important dates: Seder, my 21st birthday, and Easter.
Seder: a jewish ritual feast marking the beginning of the Passover holiday and my version of Israeli Thanksgiving.
My roomates & I had a really well established half-baked plan, we were going to attend Seder at our Professor’s house (former Gator Neta Pulvermacher) and then find our way through Sherut buses to Haifa to ring in my birthday the next day. From there we would explore Haifa and follow the wind where it took us for the remainder of Pesach
Seder was fantastic and full of both songs and food I didn’t understand. I found the afikoman a piece of Matza that is hidden so that whichever child at the table finds it at the end of the meal wins a prize, I won a pretty quirky Hebrew shirt. I also made a watermelon cake for the meal which was unnecessary after all the servings and hours of just… eating.
By the time Seder was done and we were on a bus at the center city it was very late, so I effectively turned 21 on a highway somewhere in the middle of Israel to the hum of happy birthday from my roommates Kat & Giada J
We arrived in Haifa at 4am and met our friend Gera who was letting us take over his living room in the form of 2 small mattresses and a couch and we set up to camp out. At 4:30am again my roommates surprised me with a “Halva Birthday Cake” which is the best dessert ever, and you’re going to have to try it if you’re reading this.
We ended up staying 3 nights in Haifa and here are the bullet points about that
- The Bahaii Gardens are beautiful and meticulously detailed, it is a shrine, and headquarters of the “worlds newest religion”
- Sitting by the beach in a summer dress eating olives was a perfect birthday afternoon
- Haifa is sometimes called the San Fransisco of Israel, but there is one street Masada which is said to be the most liberal street of all. If something crazy, cool, very “left” is going on it’s probably at Masada. We saw some performance art there.
- My first drink as a 21 year old was some sort of cranberry-lemonade concoction. I had to sit at the bar and really explain to the bartender that this was actually an important rite of passage and that she should surprise me with something celebratory (drinking age in Israel is 18)
- The city of Akko is beautiful, and there is a place with all you can eat Hummus only 15 shecks….
We heard around from friends we’d made that Metula was the place to be! So we set out to get there through buses, hitchhikes, and our friend Gera who came along because he was staying at a kibbutz near Metula.
On the way there we stopped by a village very much focused on a minimalistic lifestyle, with cattle roaming around and beautiful vegetation. It was here that I slept on a hammock next to an Ox.
4/18/2014 – 4/19/2014
Metula is the northernmost city in Israel and can essentially be referred to as a peninsula inside of Lebanon. There is something so special about it. We got lucky, we were able to stay within a caravan kibbutz-like community in our own van to share just between us 3.
We stayed there 2 nights and here are the bullet points about that
- The people we met were incredibly welcoming and understanding
- Our host Goldie took us to the most beautiful swimming spot I’ve ever seen, a reservoir in the Hula Valley
- The water was so cold it prompted me to make a Titanic reference…
- The reality of Metula was different then I’d seen before. You could literally see, even touch the border with Lebanon. The presence of the military was so strong; soldiers everywhere, tank looking hummers, and guns.
- A man we met joked that their village was lucky because when missiles went off from Lebanon is actually missed their village and hit the one adjacent. He said it’s the kind of terrifying idea you forget right away to go about living your happy life.
- I was never scared to be there.
Easter in Jerusalem was the most interesting Easter I’ve ever experience. I’d been lucky enough at this point to visit the Church of the Holy Resurrection several times so it had become kind of my playground. It is the supposed place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial and a tourist Mecca for Easter. It felt so good to maneuver around the pack of sardines that was the Old City seamlessly, and I spent several hours at the Church bouncing from painting to painting, spot to spot, hidden tunnel to hidden tunnel like a pro taking in the Easter energy.
The funny thing is, in a predominantly Christian culture like the ones I’ve experienced in the US, you know when it’s Easter. Christianity here is not the predominant religion and even in the Old city the quarters also represent Islam & Judaism so in many ways the day felt like any other except with more tourists. It was an Easter where one had to actively think about Easter to celebrate it or be easily distracted by the amazing shopping of the Muslim quarter or impressive Western Wall of the Jewish one.
Another thing about Pesach
I had been looking forward to my birthday not for the celebration, not even for the fact of being 21, but because it was a day I could hear from all my loved ones who I really have grown to miss. That was for me incredibly special.
All my Best,