Along with Shavuot and Sukkot, Passover is one of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals. The evening of this Friday, April 15 marks the beginning of this Jewish Passover celebrating the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt to free themselves from slavery.
Celebrated each year on Nisan 14 of the Jewish calendar, the date of the spring full moon, Passover will begin tonight and end a week later on the evening of Friday April 22 in Israel (or on the evening of Saturday April 23 April for the Jewish community of France).
This festival is also important in the agricultural field since it marks the beginning of the barley harvest, launching at the same time the annual crop cycle.
Dissatisfied with the slavery practiced by Pharaoh on his people, God has, according to belief, sent Moses to convince him to let the unfortunate Jews go, before unleashing the ten plagues of Egypt in the face of the tyrant’s numerous refusals.
Resistant until the last test, the latter finally gave in after the extermination of the first-born Egyptians by the Angel of Death, having cost the life of his only son.
He let the Jewish people go for a time, before pursuing them unsuccessfully with his army since God had allowed Moses to flee to Mount Sinai by splitting the sea in two.
The Paschal Offering
In Hebrew, Passover (sometimes spelled “Pesach”) means “the leap,” symbolizing the passing of God over Jewish homes, without inflicting upon them the death of the first born. To be spared, the Hebrews had to sacrifice a lamb to God, eat it with matzo (unleavened) bread and bitter herbs, and then smear their house with the blood of the sacrificed animal.
This ritual, sometimes still observed today, is called the “Paschal offering” and is preceded by an intense cleaning in each dwelling of any product made from leavened grain, such as bread or pasta, before their destruction.
The prohibition to eat leavened bread refers to the Exodus since the Jewish people had to flee precipitately, without giving the bread time to swell as was traditionally the case. This unleavened bread, called Matzah, is notably eaten during Seder, the first two ritual dinners of Passover.
Another tradition still in force today, believers must not work, drive or use electrical appliances during the first two days of this holiday.
A tense Jewish Passover
While Passover this year coincides with Good Friday, celebrated today by Catholics, Passover also occurs at the same time as the Ramadan fast, observed among Muslims. This month of April being loaded with religious holidays, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, last week called on the police to be vigilant because of a terrorist threat “still high”.
In Israel, the tension is even stronger and, as of yesterday, the police were placed on high alert. In Jerusalem alone, some 3,000 police officers have been mobilized to prevent any act of terrorism. This year’s first seder dinner coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Netanya Park Hotel bombing, where a Palestinian Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up, killing 30 people and injuring 143 others.
And since March 22, a series of four attacks perpetrated by Palestinians have left 14 dead, while 20 other people have died in the West Bank in violence or reprisals carried out by the Israeli army. Despite this complicated context, the Jewish state has decided to leave the esplanade of the Mosques open, so that Muslims can celebrate the second Friday of the month of Ramadan today.