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Jewish Journal

Passover: U.S vs. Israel

by Noga Gur-Arieh

April 10, 2012 | 10:46 am

No chametz for me, please.

Happy Passover! Or is it Merry Easter? Eastover? After spending some time in the States, I can confidently claim that at any given moment during the month of the best holiday ever, there are more Easter eggs than Haggadahs in most states. Spending the last summer in the states made me see a different kind of Judaism: The kind that fights for its existence every single day. The kind that needs to be shown. 

Here, in Israel, we can smell the Matzo from the beginning of March. Schools are on two weeks long holiday, shops’ display windows are decorated with “Happy Passover” signs, it is illegal to sell Chametz, and holiday songs are sung everywhere. Passover is all over the place, and it takes a great deal of effort to find a Christmas tree here, in Israel. Israel is a democratic and Jewish state by definition. There is no way to escape it. Even those of us who define ourselves as completely secular can’t ride a bus on Sabbath (the bus companies don’t work on Saturdays), and can’t ignore a Jewish holiday. 

I never had the need to go to a synagogue. It never seemed like something worth doing for me, especially due to the fact that women must sit in the back, and that is something I’m simply not willing to do. My visit to the states this past summer introduced me to the Reform Judaism, which nearly doesn’t exist in Israel. This was the first time I found myself getting closer to Judaism. This was also the first time I felt the need to pray, to keep kosher and to wear white on Saturdays. This past summer I found myself, for the first time, in a situation where Judaism wasn’t all around me. I had to create it for myself. American Jews need to bring out Passover characteristics - otherwise there will be no Passover. In Israel- there is no way to ignore it. But get this: We throw Christmas parties, and celebrate the Christian New Year’s Eve. It is never official, and we don’t get days off work, but we still do. For fun.
I guess it’s because we have such confident in our Judaism, that we “allow” ourselves to push the limits. We will always maintain a Jewish lifestyle. It surrounds us. As long as we live in Israel, the Jew’s Homeland, there will be no escape from being Jewish.

We don’t believe in Christian Holidays, but there is something alluring about things that are out of reach. This is our way of connecting to the outside world, and to be international. There is also a downside about living in a Jewish country: we are isolated. We see Christmas specials in our favorite T.V series, and want to be a part of it. Part of your world. I mean, everybody wants to be an American. We want to live in the land of endless possibilities. To make all of our dreams come true.

Whatever the reason is behind this, one thing is for sure: We all want what we can’t have. I bet you are a bit jealous of us, for us not having the need to put an effort into living a Jewish lifestyle. We are jealous of you for having every single possibility at reach. We want to see Santa Claus, you want an Easter Bunny-free Passover environment. I suppose the obvious conclusion, is to be happy for what we have. But this will never happen. This is simply against human nature. So have a happy Passover, whichever way you celebrate it, and remember: Somewhere else, people are doing it better…   

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