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COVID czar: People asked for restrictions to avoid hosting Passover Seder

Nachman Ash jokes that some have requested he intervene so that they don’t have to do as much work for festive meal, after last year saw only small groups allowed

An Israeli family seen during the Passover Seder on the first night of the 8-day long holiday, in Rishon Lezion, March 30, 2018. (Nati Shohat/Flash90/File)
An Israeli family seen during the Passover Seder on the first night of the 8-day long holiday, in Rishon Lezion, March 30, 2018. (Nati Shohat/Flash90/File)

Israel’s coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash joked Monday that people have asked him to impose restrictions on gatherings ahead of the Passover holiday only to avoid hosting large groups of people for festive meals in their homes.

When speaking in an interview with the Ynet news site about the number of people allowed to be present at the dinner table, Ash joked: “I think that 20 people for the Seder dinner is good enough this year, I get requests to reduce that [number by] people who want to host fewer [people].”

Passover for Israeli Jews has a certain cultural similarity to Thanksgiving in the United States: An annual holiday feast that traditionally sees families gather together, sometimes in large numbers.

And just as with Thanksgiving, the Passover Seder involves a whole lot of preparation, planning, and work. Last year saw Passover fall in the middle of the first coronavirus national lockdown, and many people either celebrated alone or with their nuclear families only. Many who are used to seeing family on the annual occasion spoke to them by video chat.

It appears, however, that the break from the hassle of Passover-specific preparations had its advantages, and some people may want an extra year where the holiday is a bit more restful.

Israel’s coronavirus numbers have been on an improving trend of late, with daily new cases, the share of positive test results, the number of serious patients and the basic reproduction number all in decline. Israel’s vaccination campaign has so far given a first COVID-19 vaccine shot to over 5 million Israelis, of whom over 4 million have also received the second shot.

As a result of these trends, Israel has been gradually but noticeably reopening its economy, starting an exit from its third nationwide lockdown.

One of the main questions in the past few weeks has been whether families would be able to celebrate together this year. Ash and other health officials have said in recent days that given the positive direction of COVID numbers, the likely answer is yes.

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