Pesach Memories

By Sof Members

Passover Memories

by Mat Sgan

  1. We invited a mixed multitude to one Seder and were able to do the four questions in 12 languages including Hawaiian and Pidgin.
  2. A hostess at one of the Seders made some terrible matzoh ball soup. One teenager referred to the main ingredient as, “The balls of affliction.”

Pesach 2002

By Athena DeRasmo

In 2002 I was a graduate student at Haifa University and living in student housing. It was my second Pesach in Israel. One of my classmates, Galit, a lovely mid-aged woman with grown children, was kind enough to invite me to her beautiful home in Netanya for Pesach. I was so pleased to be able to experience my first Israeli family Seder! Before I travelled by train to Netanya, I informed the Department of Overseas Studies of my Pesach plans. Tamar, the director of the program, and mother hen to all the overseas students, told me to please be very careful and hag sameach. In 2002, the Al Aqsa Intifada had been raging for 17 months. Bombings had become common; all public places and transportation were potential targets. Technically I was no longer part of the Overseas program, but I was alone in Israel, and during this time it was important to let your whereabouts be known.

Galit’s family was mixed Sephardic and Ashkenazi, a blend of culture that ensured an amazing Seder experience. The table was art, the food delicious, the Haggadot, the singing, the family, all beautiful – every detail a triumphant expression of years of tradition, and I was lucky enough to be invited! During the meal portion, Galit’s grown son came out from a back room where he had snuck off to use his phone. He stood – stoic, intense – and said, “There’s been a piguah* here, Netanya, the Park Hotel, the Seder.”

Around the table, surprisingly, there were no gasps, no tears. These were Israelis, Sabra. There was anger and indignation, and there was action. Everyone was talking at once, the TV was thrown on. Everyone ran to their phones to hear the voices of family, friends, the people they love – to have them please, just answer the phone. My phone was ringing, it was Tamar, her voice tense, “Athena, is that you?” “Yes,” I answered. “Are you ok?” she asked. I responded, “Yes, I’m at my friend’s house. I’m not there.” Tamar said, “When I heard Netanya, I thought, Athena, oh no.” And I quickly confirmed, “I am fine Tamar, safe, it’s ok, thank you.”

About 40 minutes passed. The calls were over, the voices had been heard, the TV reported what was known. There was nothing left to do. Someone said, “Let’s finish the Seder.” So we all sat down and found our way back to Pesach, to our celebration of freedom, shaken, a little less free than an hour before.

The next day I took the train back to Haifa.


* March 27, 2002 – Passover Massacre Park Hotel Bombing, Netanya Israel – 30 killed, 140 injured.

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