We knew that making aliyah three weeks before Pesach would be a challenge. My husband and I were always blessed to spend the chag with our families. In 10 years of marriage, we never even had to kasher our kitchen for Pesach.
This year would be different from all other years. Within days of our arrival in the country – and while we were still in quarantine – all non-essential stores were shut down. Online shopping turned out to be a whole other catastrophe as only Israeli credit cards could be used on most Israeli websites.
I quickly learned that one cannot even apply for an Israeli credit card without an Israeli bank account – which we did not have and could not get in time due to coronavirus-related complications. It seemed like we would need our own modern-day Pesach miracle to make the chag happen this year.
Enter the wonderful people of Israel. In response to a Facebook post I wrote inquiring about websites that accepted American credit cards, a flurry of e-mails came pouring in. A college friend offered to pay for our groceries. A complete stranger offered to lend us one of his credit cards. A Modi’in neighbor took the time to send me a list of local stores that would take orders by phone.
Nefesh B’Nefesh shared a link for a “Seder in a Box ” program, which provided everything needed for a seder, including a complete seder plate!
Little by little, our Pesach prep essentials began pouring in without us ever having to leave home. Of course there were many hiccups along the way. As a new olah, I had not appreciated how many kosher for Pesach foods in Israel are actually kitniyot. I also did not quite have a grasp of the difference between a kilogram and a pound, which resulted in an inordinate amount of bananas arriving at our door.
Finally, I realized on erev Pesach that the olive oil I had ordered – the only oil I had in the house – was not kosher for Pesach after all. But somehow, we made it. As the eve of Pesach dawned, our house was sparkling clean from my son’s sponga adventures. Counters and cabinets were appropriately covered. Food, if not a bit simpler than our parents normally serve, was piled on the plata and filled the fridge. Our table was set complete with a plastic seder plate.
This year certainly would not be like our Pesachs past, but nonetheless, we would do our best. As we sat down to begin our seder, I felt homesick for my family sedarim. Flashes of previous Pesachs crossed my mind. We did our best to observe family customs and niggunim, but it felt strange to be so far away from family and to be alone here in Israel.
But were we really alone? Maybe not. We were surrounded by millions of cousins. Although Israel was in lockdown on seder night, our gansa mishpacha found a way to come together. There was a coordinated effort across the country for people to go to their porches and sing Mah Nishtanah as one.
My family and I walked out to our front yard at approximately 8:30 and began our rendition of the four questions. Within minutes, we heard another family from the building over. Then we heard voices from across the street. Over the next 10 minutes, we heard round after round of Mah Nishtanah echoing through the streets of our new home in Modi’in.
Voices of the elderly mixed with those of the young. Israeli accents mixed with accents of olim like ourselves. It was an unbelievable experience and one I know for certain that I will recall and retell to our children, siblings, parents and, grandparents when we im yirtzeh Hashem merit to spend Pesachs together with them again.
I better start preparing now. I’m hoping to host a lot of relatives – old and new – for the seder next year.