Israel Brief April 1, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Israelis celebrate end of Passover holiday Moroccan style



Israelis celebrate end of Passover holiday Moroccan style

Source: The Times of Israel, 4-1-13

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in the celebrations, attending a Mimouna gathering in Or Akiva along with his wife Sara….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 24, 2013: MKs call for leaving Seder seat open for Jonathan Pollard



MKs call for leaving Seder seat open for Pollard

Source: Jerusalem Post, 3-24-13‎

MKs hold mock seder ending with a toast to Pollard and a reading of a prayer for the Israel agent’s welfare….READ MORE

Israel Brief April 5, 2012: Shalit family prepares for Passover with Gilad



Shalit family prepares for Passover with Gilad

Former IDF soldier’s family to truly celebrate meaning of freedom, as Gilad joins Passover seder for first time after over 5 years in Hamas captivity

Source: YNet News, 4-5-12

For the first time after six years, Gilad Shalit will sit down with his family for the traditional Passover seder on Friday. The Shalit family had previously refrained from celebrating the Jewish holiday as long as Gilad was still held captive by Hamas.

“This year we feel true freedom,” Noam Shalit, father of the former captive soldier, told Ynet on Thursday.

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During Gilad’s time in captivity, Shalit campaign activists staged Passover seders outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s home in Jerusalem. In 2011, the Shalit family spent the seder in Jerusalem by chaining themselves to the PM’s Residence compound, while many Israeli citizens left an empty chair for Gilad at their seder table.

According to Noam Shalit, this year the festivities will truly be rejoiceful and include the extended family, as Gilad’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will all join them for Passover.

“We’re preparing just like any other home in Israel,” he added.

שליט וההגדה המשטרתית. חג ראשון בשש שנים (צילום: באדיבות משטרת ישראל)

Zvi Shalit recieves special Haggadah (Photo: Israeli Police)

“It feels good. It’s the first time since Gilad was kidnapped when we can really celebrate the holiday. This time it truly feels like a feast of freedom.”

Despite many attempts made by rabbis and different organizations over the years, Gilad never received any of the Passover packages his family made for him during his time in captivity. “He only knew about the holiday from what he heard on the radio, but he never received matzah or wine to prepare a Passover seder,” Noam explained.

The Shalit family received a special Haggadah for the upcoming holiday, which includes photographs of Gilad from his IDF service, from the day he was released from Hamas captivity and pictures from the campaign to free him. The Haggadah was given to Gilad’s grandfather, Zvi Shalit, by Police Operations Division Chief Nissim Mor.

Israel Political Brief April 5, 2012: President Barack Obama posts Passover message, to host seder



Obama posts Passover message, to host seder

Source: JTA, 4-5-12

President Obama will host a seder at the White House on the first night of Passover.

Obama’s seder on Friday night will continue a tradition that started in 2008, when he was a presidential candidate on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania and he joined a small group of staff members at an impromptu seder.

On Thursday, the president issued a video Passover message.

“The story of the Exodus is thousands of years old, but it remains as relevant as ever,” he said. “Throughout our history, there are those who have targeted the Jewish people for harm — a fact we were so painfully reminded of just a few weeks ago in Toulouse.

“Michelle and I are proud to celebrate with friends here at home and around the world, including those in the State of Israel,” Obama said, wishing the Jewish community a “Chag sameach.”

A Passover Message from the Obama Family

Source: WH, 4-5-12

Starting tomorrow night, the Jewish community in the United States, Israel, and throughout the world will come together to celebrate the holiday of Passover.

President and Mrs. Obama will join them, continuing their tradition of hosting a small Seder at the White House. By now, the story of how that tradition began has been told and retold, but in the spirit of Passover, I’ll tell it again: In April of 2008, the President and his staff were on the trail in Pennsylvania in the midst of a long primary campaign. Weary from a long day of work and away from their families, a small group of staffers came together to hold an impromptu Seder. When then-Senator Obama got wind of the Seder, he gathered some other staff and friends and decided to join. At the end of the Seder, the President followed the traditional “Next year in Jerusalem” declaration with a pledge of his own – “Next year in the White House.” Each year since, he has followed through on that promise. This year, he also added a new touch, a video message to Jews everywhere wishing them Chag Sameach as they continue their own traditions or start new ones this Passover.

Jewish News Brief April 5, 2012: The Maxwell House Haggadah: Popular Passover handbook goes to White House Seder table



Popular Passover handbook goes to White House Seder table

By Pete Souza, AP

When President Obama and Jewish guests celebrate the Passover Seder ceremonial meal on Friday, they’ll read from ‘The Maxwell House Haggadah,’ a handbook of rituals, commentary and prayers published as a freebie by Maxwell House.

By Oded Ezer

Two acclaimed Jewish novelists and an Israeli artist known for his illustrations with typography collaborated on ‘The New American Haggadah,’ a book of prayers, stories and scholarly commentary to serve as the text for the Passover Seder dinner.

Source: USA Today, 4-5-12

Friday night, when President Obama joins Jewish guests for a Passover Seder in the White House, he’ll be holding a ritual handbook that’s in millions of U.S. Jewish homes — the Maxwell House Haggadah.

Yes, the coffee company publishes America’s most long standing and popular booklet (haggadah) of prayers, reading and commentary for the ceremonial meal ) in which Jews retell the story of the exodus from Egypt — freedom from bondage at God’s hand.

Decades ago, Maxwell House wanted to convey that its product was kosher, acceptable under Jewish dietary laws, for the holiday. Jewish homes have piles of these haggadahs, pulled out of the cupboard once a year.

But many also have scholarly and beautiful historic, political and artistic haggadahs as well. One of the core teachings of the holiday is that the story of freedom must be told in the present tense, as if every generation was personally experiencing oppression and liberation. Weaving in current events and issues, supplementing the readings and embellishing the art of the hagaddah is a tradition centuries old and as new as this week.

On Wednesday, the White House and Department of Agriculture teamed with Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, to sponsor a Seder at the Agriculture headquarters where the haggadah theme was Food and Justice. On the Seder plate, where each of the foods symbolizes a part of the story and the theology of Passover, they added a tomato. The haggadah explained it was

… in honor of migrant farm workers everywhere who have demonstrated extraordinary courage and persistence in securing a better life for farm workers.


Israel Brief April 5, 2012: 56% of Israelis say Chametz Law necessary for Passover



56% of Israelis say Chametz Law necessary

As millions prepare to celebrate Passover holiday, new survey reveals that majority of Israeli Jews will celebrate seder, refrain from eating chametz, while 42% believe law is redundant

Source: YNet News, 4-5-12 
Passover is considered to be an especially difficult holiday, yet a new survey reveals – even Israel‘s secular population does not want to give it up. A Ynet-Gesher survey indicated that a clear majority of Israel’s Jewish population, from every sector of society, are meticulous in not eating chametz on the seven days of Passover.

Moreover, a majority of the population believes that the often criticized Chametz Law, which forbids stores, restaurants, offices and public places from displaying or selling chametz, is necessary.

The survey was conducted by Panels Ltd. among 519 respondents – a national sample that represents Israel’s adult Jewish population with a maximum sampling error of 4.4%.

Every Passover sees the question come up again on the public agenda: Would it have been better to leave the matter of chametz in the hands of the population rather than the legislative authority?

According to the survey, 56% of the Israeli public believes that the law is needed both for the Jewish character of the State (34%) and in order to maintain the status quo between the religious and secular citizens of Israel (22%).

In contrast, 42% believe the law is redundant: Some think “it needs to be a social norm that stems from mutual respect (24%) while others believe the individual’s freedom must be respected and that chametz should be allowed on Passover (19%).

The survey revealed that some 70% of Israel’s secular Jews believe that the law is unnecessary, with an equal number naming social norms and individual rights as the reason for their response.

Meanwhile, 76% of traditional respondents, 83% of modern orthodox and 95% of religious respondents believe the law is necessary.

When asked if they believed the Chametz Law influenced relations between the secular and religious citizens in Israel, 38% said it hurts the rights of the individual (the majority of the secular population), 27% said it contributed to joint relations as it maintained the Jewish identity in Israel, and 28% believe the law has little influence either way.

The survey also revealed that when the Passover holiday begins on Friday night, millions throughout the country will be celebrating – in accordance with the Jewish traditions. Some 61% of respondents declared that they would be having a full-fledged seder with all the trimmings (with the majority of this group made up of traditional and religious Israelis).

Some 33% said they would have a festive family dinner during which parts of the Haggadah would be read (secular Israelis). Some 4% would make do with a regular family dinner and 1% do not feel the need to mark the holiday in any way (an additional 1% stated that they had not yet decided on how to spend the holiday).

When asked whether they would eat chametz in a public place in front of religious or traditional people, 59% said the question was redundant as they do not eat chametz throughout the holiday week, 32% declared they would avoid it – so as not to offend anyone.

Some 6% said they would eat chametz but only “privately so that no one sees,” and 2% would not consider anyone’s feelings; 1% said they had no opinion on the matter.

Gesher Executive Director Ilan Geal-Dor believes that “The State’s residents want a connection to tradition and heritage and see themselves as part of a long line of generations of the Jewish nation. That is why there is no need to enforce these things… Our challenge is to preserve this framework and transfer it on to future generations.”

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