A Different Kind of Passover

Stand for Israel  |  March 31, 2020

People wearing protective masks walk into Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital on March 16, 2020 in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, as the Jewish state introduces stringent measures to control the coronavirus pandemic. - Israel is grappling with 255 coronavirus cases amid an accelerating global Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

It is about a week before Passover, the holiday of freedom. Passover commemorates the Exodus, the escape in biblical times of the Jewish people from Egypt, where they were kept as slaves for more than 200 years.

This year, we are spending the pre-holiday period staying at home. The whole experience is surreal. We’re not permitted to go further than 100 meters from our homes or stand closer than two meters away from anyone, except for family members who live with us. Even my children and my grandchildren cannot visit me until this coronavirus lockdown is over and we can really be free – free from illness, free from restrictions, free from fear, and free to stand closer than two meters from each other.

This means that, in addition to the time I spend working at home for The Fellowship, I have plenty of time to prepare for Passover. I don’t just mean the thorough cleaning we do every year before the holiday: scrubbing refrigerators, ovens, floors, and more, to make sure there are no traces of crumbs from foods like bread or crackers which must not be eaten (or even owned) during Passover. No. I mean that we also have time to prepare internally, to think about what is really important in life.

Our Passover Priorities

In the weeks before Passover, Israel’s shops and malls are usually filled with people buying new clothing and household items for the holiday. Two weeks ago, before I started working from home because of the coronavirus, I went to Superpharm, a popular pharmacy chain in Israel, to buy a few things I needed. The store closest to our Jerusalem office is in the Hadar mall, a 5 minute walk. When I reached the mall that day, I discovered that Superpharm was the only store that was open. The usually lively mall was vacant, dark, and sad. It reminded me of a popular Hebrew children’s song that begins with, “It is sad to see a kindergarten that is closed.”

Israel, like the rest of the world, has been shut down by the coronavirus. I feel like God is shaking up the world – airing it out, you could say, like the way you shake a rug outside to get rid of the dust. Maybe it is time for the world to reconsider its priorities. It is not new clothes, appliances, or cars that are important in life – it is our families and communities. It is helping one another, spending time together, respecting and loving each other. I think most of us really know this, but materialism still grows from day to day.

Focusing on our Freedoms

As people are not going out of their homes except to buy food or medicine or take a short walk, more and more people are ordering food online from supermarkets. Sometimes, there are shortages of items you think you really need, and so we are also being humbled, because it can be the item you thought was so important that is out of stock. We are finding out what it is like to not have everything we want and need, just like so many people who live in poverty. And of course, the virus does not differentiate between races, religions, nationalities, or ethnicities. When it comes to this tiny virus that we cannot see, we are all the same.

Passover will definitely be different this year. It is hard to celebrate the holiday of freedom when you are not free to do the things that are part of your day-to-day life. Still, I am trying to keep in mind the freedoms we do have. We have the freedom to live in our own homeland. We have the freedom to choose to make the best of a difficult situation. We have the freedom to try to keep both our spirits and bodies healthy during this time of isolation.

As I said to the woman who delivered my order from the local pharmacy – standing about four meters away from me when I opened the door – I hope that this will all “pass over” soon.

Miriam Lock is a staff member in The Fellowship’s Jerusalem office

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