Home » 5 Ways to Celebrate Passover in Israel

5 Ways to Celebrate Passover in Israel

by backpackisrael
Published: Updated: 10 minutes read

Passover is a seven-day holiday commemorating the exodus from Egypt. On this holiday, we celebrate the freedom of the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt. We gather, eat the traditional holiday food, and retell the exodus story by reading from the Haggadah. It is one of the three pilgrimage holidays, making it one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. So, how can you celebrate Passover in Israel? Here are 5 ways to celebrate the holiday.

It’s important to note that public transportation does not operate on Passover Eve and the first day of the holiday. This year (2023), it falls on 5-13 April. Stores, restaurants, and attractions will also be closed on these dates. 

Learn more about Passover by watching this video by Israel:

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When is Passover celebrated?

This year (2024), Passover will begin at sundown on 22 April and end at nightfall on 29 April. The date is slightly different every year because we celebrate our holidays according to the Hebrew calendar, which differs from the widely used Gregorian calendar. Passover begins yearly on the 15th day of the seventh Hebrew month, Nisan. Usually, this day falls in April.

Why is Passover called Passover?

To explain why Passover is called “Passover,” you need to understand the story of the exodus from Egypt. According to the Bible, the Hebrews suffered from slavery in Egypt, and GOD saw their distress. So, he sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message: “Let my people go.” But Pharaoh refused. GOD cast ten plagues on Egypt until Pharoah changed his mind. The last plague was the Death of the Firstborn Sons. One of the sons who died was Pharoah’s son. The firstborn sons of the Israelite people were saved because the Hebrews marked their doorways, and GOD “passed over” their houses. That’s why we call the holiday “Passover” or, in Hebrew, “Pesach.”

5 ways to celebrate Passover in Israel

Forget about bread. Eat matzah!

When the Israelites left Egypt, they did it in a hurry. They baked bread but didn’t have enough time to wait for the dough to rise, so the bread they took with them was unleavened flatbread, called matzah. That’s why we eat matzah on Passover—to remember the miracle of the Exodus of Egypt. If you want to experience the holiday spirit, you can try to change your habits, ditch the bread, and eat matzah for a week.

Matzah is usually sold in large packages that last for a family for the entire week. If you’re traveling alone or with only one partner, try looking for the smaller packages in the supermarkets. The matzah is crispy, and some claim it tastes like Styrofoam. I don’t think it’s that bad. To make the matzah more eatable, you can soak it in a few drops of water and dry it for a bit. Then, put some chocolate spread, cheese, or jam on it. I usually use it to make matzah brei. There are a lot of things to make from matzah.

Package of matzah
This is how a package of matzah looks

Read the Haggadah

The Haggadah is the centerpiece of Passover. As I said in the introduction, we celebrate Passover by retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is a collection of Jewish texts, amongst them texts from the Bible. They tell the story of the Exodus and the blessings that need to be said throughout the Seder feast. So, if you want to get to know the holiday better, the best way is to read the Haggadah. If you don’t know Hebrew, there are also Haggadahs in English. 

Bonus tip: If you can join a Seder feast at a local home, it could be an awesome experience. If it’s a Hebrew-speaking house, you’ll be able to hear the Haggadah in Hebrew.

Passover table with Haggadah
See the books on the table? Those are Haggadah books

Eat at a restaurant that’s Kosher for Passover

In Israel, many restaurants change their menus for Passover. I have already talked about matzah and how many Israelis do not eat bread during Passover. But it’s not just about bread. The Jewish law forbids eating anything that is “chametz.” That is, any leavened food product made from wheat, rye, dinkel wheat, oats, or barley. So, in Passover, many restaurants use flour that is not based on those products, such as potato flour, matzah flour, and other “fake” types of flour. It’s not always tasty like the original dish, but it’s worth a try, just so you can mark it off your list of experiences.

Explore Israel on foot

Passover is also known as “the Holiday of the Spring.” It’s the peak of springtime and a great time to go out and enjoy Israel’s beautiful nature. The weather is usually pleasant, and the flowers are in full bloom everywhere. Israeli families take the opportunity to travel on hiking trails, camp outdoors, or visit the Israeli nature reserves. So, you can expect a lot of crowds.

If you’re not sure which trails to travel, here are a few of my favorite picks:

Check out my full list of recommended hiking trails in Israel.

And, if you would like to stay outdoors during Passover, you can also check out my guide to camping in Israel. Just remember that campgrounds might be packed with people during the holiday. 

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee from the Arbel Mountain
View of the Sea of Galilee from a hiking trail on Mount Arbel

Spend time on the beach

This year, the beach season in Israel starts in mid-April. So, if you like to swim or splash in the water, you can celebrate Passover by spending time on one of Israel’s splendid beaches. They will probably be very crowded because of the holiday, especially in Tel Aviv, so it’s best to come early morning or late afternoon. For less crowded beaches, I’d recommend heading northward to the northern beaches, like Achziv Beach, Beit Yanai Beach, or Argaman Beach in Akko. But still, they might be crowded, too. Remember that almost everyone is on holiday.

Charles Clore Beach packed and covered umbrellas
Tel Aviv beach

Bonus: Visit Egypt

A large portion of the Passover story took place in Egypt. So, if you’re already in the region, you can combine your trip to Israel with a visit to its neighboring country, Egypt. There, you can visit the ancient pyramids and palaces and imagine the Israelites’ days of slavery. EgyptAir has direct flights from Tel Aviv to Cairo. Note: Because of the situation in Israel, there may not be direct flights to Cairo at the moment. But flying from Jordan to Egypt might be cheaper, so it’s worth comparing prices. You can compare prices and find flights on WayAway

Conclusion

Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays, a time when we remember the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt. There are many ways to celebrate Passover in Israel. You can try eating matzah, travel Israel on foot, and more. I hope you’ll have a good time during the holiday. Happy Passover! Pesach Sameach!

Coming to Israel for other holidays? Check out >> Holidays in Israel and how to spend them during travel

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Yours,

Lior

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