a different side of Israel

Tag: passover

Meet the artist Shraga Landesman

Pomegranate Hebrew Seder Plate by Shraga Landesman

When you visit the Website of artist Shraga Landesman you’ll see this quote:

“My spiritual sources are the Bible and the ancient cultures that lived in the region. A disappearing world that I miss which does not exist anymore. I confront this world my way, trying to decode familiar cultural codes from those magic objects that these cultures left behind”.

Shraga Landesman was born in Israel where he studied sculpture and painting at the Oranim College of Art and Tel-Hai College. There was seemingly no limit to the borders of Landesman’s creative output. In 1982 he won first prize in a documentary photograph competition in Israel. His photographs were widely exhibited in Haifa.

At this successful juncture in Shraga’s career, he traveled through Europe where he was exposed to the origins of Western culture, hints of which were left there by the ruins of ancient civilizations such as that of Greece and Rome. Inspired by this, he enrolled at Haifa University, concentrating on small scale sculptures. A constant itch for creative expression led him to the designing and creation of ceremonial Judaica – this is what he is best known for, and this has been the focus of his artistic output since 1996. Shraga Landesman’s creations in functional Judaica are even featured at several museums, galleries and fine craft-stores throughout Israel, Europe and the United States.

Shraga’s Judaica comes in the form of mezuzot, Hanukkah menorahs, pesach items, candle holders, serving items, havdallah sets, Kiddush sets, and more. Currently his photography focuses on Birds of Israel.

Mormons to Hold Pesach Seder

Salt Lake TempleMembers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah will be holding a Seder this week.

Avraham Gileadi, a Hebrew scholar and Mormon, will lead “A Passover for Joseph and Judah” at Provo’s Scenic View Academy on Friday. The Hebraeus Foundation is sponsoring the Seder.
The Book of Mormon, which the members of the religion abide by, along with the Old and New Testaments, claims that Israelites migrated to the New World and were the ancestors of Native Americans.

Passover HaggadahLatter-day Saints believe that the founder of their church, Joseph Smith Jr. translated this holy book from golden plates which was revealed by an angel in the 1820s and thereby restored authentic Christianity. The book tells the story of a family who leaves Jerusalem for the Americas around 600 B.C. In 1841, Smith sent

Apostle Orson Hyde to Jerusalem to dedicate the land for Smith’s prophecy of the Jews’ return to Zion. A park on the Mount of Olives commemorates Hyde’s pilgrimage.

Relations between the two faiths have been strained over the Mormon practice of posthumous baptisms, which include the baptism of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps. Holocaust survivors have said the church repeatedly violated an agreement banning the practice. Leaders of the Mormon Church have said that they are making changes to their genealogical database in order to make it more difficult for names of Holocaust victims to be entered for posthumous baptism by proxy.

Jewish leaders in Utah say that they have no problem with Mormons sitting down to a Seder at which Mormon men will wear yarmulkes on their heads and all will follow along in a Haggadah. One major exception is that wine won’t make it onto the dining tables since Mormons don’t drink alcohol.

Don’t take the Sun for granted

Have you ever wondered why the sun is considered as being so important that it has often been worshiped as having god-like powers – even like being a god? The answer is simply that because the sun’s importance to life on earth is so obvious, since life itself is impossible without it’s light and warmth.

The first few lines of the Book of Genesis in the Bible state that “the earth was without form or void, and darkness covered the face of the deep”. Enter the light and warmth of the sun, which changed everything and caused a “separation between the “light and the darkness and darkness and the light” that resulted in life being formed on an otherwise dark and shapeless mass of stone. Jewish tradition notes that once during a period of 28 years, a special prayer dealing with the Creation is said on the eve of Passover when the sun rises. This year, in the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, and in the year 5769, which observant Jews say is the period of years from the actual Creation, a special prayer is said give thanks to the Devine Creator. The prayer goes like this:

“Baruch Atah Adonay, Elohenu Melech Haolam, Oseh Maaseh B’reshit” – Blessed be Thou, O’Lord, King of the Universe, who performs the act of Creation

Creation – the sun – without the sun there would be no creation. The position of the sun in relation to the earth is only part of the reason why this special prayer is only said once every 28 years. Other factors, both physical and spiritual, have to be present as well, and for this reason, the prayer is only recited so seldom.

Those who regularly study the Talmud, that all import set of books of Jewish knowledge, know that the answer as to why this prayer is recited once every 28 years, is found in section known as Brahot (Blessings) , section 59 B. Those seeking the answer can find it there. Or, you can simply recite the prayer tomorrow at dawn, when the first rays of the sun appear on the eastern horizon.

If it’s cloudy where you are, say the prayer anyway. G-d will hear you.

A White House first: Obama’s Passover Seder

White House SederIn a never-before act of commemoration, U.S. President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and a selected group of Jewish and Non-Jewish guests celebrated the Second Passover Seder on Thursday night in the While House. The event had never been celebrated there before, although many U.S. presidents had issued official Passover greetings to the American and World Jewish community on this annual festival of redemption and freedom.

Obama has appeared especially moved to be celebrating an event which he described the story of the Children of Israel’s redemption from human bondage as “one of the most powerful stories of suffering and redemption in human history”. Among those attending was Obama’s Chief of Staff Ram Emanuel, himself not only Jewish but Israeli by birth. A Seder had been conducted at the White House during the Clinton administration, the President himself had not attended. What made this event even more significant was that Obama, a descendent of both Christian and Muslim backgrounds, felt the holiday was worthy enough to be celebrated by himself and his family.

Members of the American Jewish Community, have expressed their satisfaction over the vent saying that American Jews have come a long way by this gesture, especially since U.S. President Franklin kept a very low profile and even “used the back door” to escape facing a protest of American Jewish rabbis protesting Roosevelt’s lack of assistance to save Jews who were dying in the Holocaust during World War II. Jews were prevented from entering the U.S. in large numbers before and during the war and it has been estimated that at least a million might have been saved if the U.S. immigration authorities had allowed a greater number to enter the U.S.

In a letter sent to the American Jewish community prior to the onset of the holiday Obama wrote of the symbolism of Passover highlights the beauty of freedom and the responsibility it entails. “As part of a larger global community, we all must work to ensure that our brothers and sisters of every race, religion, culture and nationality are free from bondage and repression, and are able to live in peace.”

Obama has attended Passover Seders in the past, including one last year in Harrisburg Pennsylvania during a campaign visit.

Virtually Masada

Passover is a a great time for traveling and trips in Israel and the weather is ideal. If you are however like me, sitting in front of a computer this is a pretty good way to checkout Masada virtually!!
Masada Virtual Tour

Feel good video for the Passover break

It’s a holiday week here and people are out having a good time. This is one of those holidays where families go traveling across the country, the weather is mild and not too hot and most of the upcoming workdays next week are half days. We are also going to take it easy in the next couple of days. So y’all have a great break and if you are working – then watch this at work 🙂
Hat tip: Nick A.



In Israel the end of Passover is marked with a celebration called Mimouna, which is a custom brought to this country by the Jews of Morocco.

In Morocco, Mimouna was celebrated with some beautiful and unique customs.

Immediately following afternoon prayers, or mincha, Jews would go out to the orchards to view the blooming fruit trees, a symbol of spring and renewal, and recite the blessing of the trees.

In the evening, they would bring Passover delicacies to their Muslim neighbours, who would in turn present the Jews with a gift basket of yeast and leavened foods, or chametz, to mark the end of the holiday. Many people point to this as evidence of the good relations enjoyed by Jews and Muslims in Morocco.

One of the items in the gift basket presented by the Muslim neighbours was yeast, which the Jews used that evening to prepare the dough for a leavened delicacy called mufleta – crepes covered with melted butter and honey (as seen in the photo). The kneading of the dough was a ceremony in itself, with the men singing accompanying hymns and then presenting their wives with coins to be placed in the dough for luck and prosperity in the coming year.

In the mixed Arab-Jewish towns of Israel Mimouna is sometimes celebrated in the traditional way, with exchanges of food between Muslims and Jews. But mostly it has become a Jewish-only celebration with massive amounts of food, dancing to traditional North African music and much rejoicing at the beginning of spring and the season of renewal. Interestingly, Mimouna has been adopted by all the Jews of Israel – not just those of North African descent – as an occasion to celebrate.

Katsav celebrates Mimouna
President Moshe Katsav celebrates Mimouna in the town of Netivot. credit: Alberto Dankenberg/Haaretz

For more about how Mimouna was celebrated yesterday in Israel, see this article in Haaretz newspaper.

Haggadah from the Physicians for Human Rights – Israel


Eloheinu v’Elohei Kadmoneinu (Avoteinu, Avoteinu vEmoteinu), our God and God of our ancestors, we are gathered around this seder table as b’nei khorin , free people who still remember the long years of oppression. We have vowed never to become oppressors ourselves. Yet, we know how easy it is to harden our hearts to those who have paid an excessive price for our people’s prosperity and security. On this Feast of Freedom we know that to be truly free we must banish Pharaoh from our hearts and reaffirm our commitment to honor God’s Image in every human being. Recalling the midwives of old, we know that the seeds of redemption are planted when we oppose Pharaoh’s command.

Tonight we leave a place at our table for those who remain victims of oppression. We renew our commitment to winning their freedom, thereby insuring ours. We particularly remember: (Choose one or more)

A. The Hungry

As we declare Kol Dikhfeen, “Let all who are hungry come and eat,” we know that a rising number of Israelis feel the pangs of hunger. Recalling the four children of the haggadah, we know that 20-25% of Israeli children and youth go to bed hungry at least one night a week. Fear for our own economic well being has perhaps hardened our hearts to the plight of the weakest elements of our society. This year the Israeli Wisconsin Plan has removed for many the last remnants of an unraveling security net. Under the threat of losing their meager benefits because of “non-cooperation,” the elderly and ill are forced to engage in “volunteer” physical labor as “community service” and travel long distances to unrealistic job interviews. Without provisions for child care, single parents are required to leave young children alone at home in order to attend evening courses. Without being given any language training, new immigrants are expected to succeed in Hebrew language jobs. Instead of inviting the hungry to come and eat, we have justified budget cuts by viewing those less fortunate than ourselves as strangers, entirely responsible for their plight.
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