I still can’t believe we managed to make Pesach last year. We were released from our two-week post-aliyah quarantine just a week before Pesach into a country under strict lockdown. People were not allowed to travel farther than a hundred meters from their homes and basically only pharmacies and supermarkets were open.
Not exactly an ideal situation to prepare for chag.
With only a sparsity of belongings and a not-yet kashered kitchen, the cleaning and transformation was relatively easy. While most of the groceries I ordered from the online supermarkets ended up having kitniyot, a local makolet searched through its products one by one to find any non-kitniyot foods it could. (We ended up eating a lot of garlic and onion potato chips, as it was the only non-kitniyot snack it carried!) We may not have feasted like kings, but spending our first holiday together in Israel is still a treasured memory for us all.
One year later, we are free from lockdown, but still unable to celebrate a seder with family, as it is currently nearly impossible to travel between Israel and North America.
When Rosh Chodesh Nissan neared, I knew it was time to get serious about preparing for Pesach. First on the agenda was a trip to Max Stock. Max Stock reminds me of an oversized version of Amazing Savings. It sells everything – baby clothing, gardening supplies, home goods, and most importantly for us, kitchen supplies. Quickly as we could, my husband and I ran through the aisles, cramming our carts with everything on our shopping list – and all those items we had forgotten to put on the list.
Here and there, we stopped and smiled at the little extra touch you find shopping for products in Israel. There were matzah boxes featuring the words of Ma Nishtana, pillowcases embroidered with the word “melech” (king), and even acrylic storage jars labeled “l’ochlei kitniyot bilvad” (only for those who eat kitniyot).
Our next stop was a trip to the supermarket, Osher Ad. In general, this supermarket chain is popular among the Anglo community as, in addition to carrying strictly mehadrin hashgachot, it carries the same Kirkland products we all are used to from Costco. We hadn’t gone there before as it has a reputation of being overcrowded – and overcrowded is something we have been trying to avoid during corona.
However, as Osher Ad generally carries large selections of non-kitniyot products (mostly made by American companies), we decided it was our best option for ensuring we ate more than just potato chips this year.
Osher Ad certainly lived up to its reputation. While somewhat crowded with people, it was jam-packed with everything we needed. There was a huge row of every sort of shmura matzah imaginable (we chose handmade whole wheat). There were aisles of kosher meat (finally brisket!), and every sort of cabinet and counter liner a Pesachdik house could need.
In addition to hashgachot on the food items themselves, the supermarket helpfully had signs on the shelves marking what items were for non-kitniyot eaters.
The coolest part of shopping at Osher Ad was using its automated checkout system. Before entering the store, shoppers enter their te’udat zehut (Israeli identification) number into a computer in order to obtain a scanner, like those used for wedding registries. They then scan the barcodes of their shopping carts and, subsequently, the barcodes of their desired items as they pick them off the shelves.
When done, shoppers bring their carts to a checkout scale, which compares the approximated weight of all the scanned items against the weight of the carts. If the weights match, a receipt is printed and shoppers are directed to a cashier to pay, without having to remove anything from their carts. This is a huge time saver!
Unfortunately, when we weighed our carts, the weights did not match up. A customer service representative was called over to “reconcile” the amounts. Using an app on his phone on which he could see all the scanned items, he tried to figure out what we had missed – without having to take out every item of our two overflowing carts. It took a good 10 minutes, but ultimately the auditor located the offending items (a bag of pepper and a bag of zucchinis) and we were cleared to proceed.
Thousands of shekels later, our storage room is stocked and our shopping is almost complete, but our Pesach prep is certainly not done. Now on to cleaning and kashering…