Passover, that holiday of over-cleaning, constant cooking and matzah-led eating, is approaching, and once the seder (yes, we are focusing on the Israeli version of this festive period) is over, there are five — count ’em, five — days of hol hamoed, the interim days of the holiday, when many take to the road to explore and frolic.
Whether you want to stay put and venture out on foot, or be brave and get in the car (we can’t promise there won’t be traffic jams), there’s a whole load of events and activities planned for the Passover vacation.
Many museums are free (from north to south), thanks to Bank Hapoalim, which underwrites that effort each year (activities and workshops will still carry their own fees).
There are also tours galore and a long list of events leading up to Israel’s 70th birthday that will be celebrated just two weeks after Passover. If you want to hit the beach, Tel Aviv’s sandy shores — which don’t officially open until April 15 — will be open for the school break from March 20, with lifeguards on duty during the week of Pesach.
So get those matzah sandwiches ready, fill up some water bottles, and hit the road. It’s time for Passover vacation.
1) The Old City’s Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem is all set for the holiday, with virtual escape rooms that take travelers back in time, guided tours in English, Hebrew, and Russian of the quarter’s museums, and a mosaic tile project in the Cardo that hearkens back to when this ancient shopping strip functioned as the local market. There’s also a special family ticket deal of NIS 125 (approximately $36). Find out locations, times and prices at the Jewish Quarter website.
Just a heads-up about other worthwhile museum stops in Jerusalem: the Bloomfield Science Museum is featuring their “Thinking out of the Box” exhibit, with NIS 220 family discount tickets.
At the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, entrance is free for three different tours, one of flowers, another about humans and nature, and the third on the world of plants. There are also activities for kids, and more information at the Botanical Gardens site.
Finally, the Museum of Jewish Music, in Jerusalem’s Nahalat Shiva, is offering musical tours through the neighborhood, all about world music that reflects Passover themes of slavery to freedom.
2) You can start gearing up for Israel’s 70th during Passover, since Yom Ha’atzmaut is two weeks after the holiday of freedom. In the northern town of Tefen, they’re celebrating 70 years of blue and white industry with free activities for the family. This is your chance to get free tours of Tefen factories that are opening their doors for the first time. There are also musical and theater performances, activities for kids, kite flying, a gymboree for little ones, and tours in the sculpture garden. For more information, head to the Tefen website.
3. Staying put in Tel Aviv? Gear up for Israel’s 70th by taking a tour of The Independence Trail, the new interactive walking route on Rothschild Boulevard that leads visitors past 10 heritage sites telling the story of the Declaration of Independence and the origins of the city.
The Independence Trail is officially launching on April 19 with a special app for walking the route, but you can get a head start during Passover. Start at the first Hebrew kiosk at the corner of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street, and follow the golden track along the kilometer-long route that continues along Rothschild past the Nahum Gutman fountain, The Akiva Aryeh Weiss House, The Shalom Meir Tower, The Great Synagogue, the Haganah Museum, The Bank of Israel’s Visitor Center, The Tel Aviv Founders Monument, the Meir Dizengoff statue and Independence Hall.
While in Tel Aviv, take some time to visit the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where you can view “The Clock,” the Christian Marclay video installation that creates a 24-hour montage of time.
The museum is hosting a free marathon of “The Clock” on March 22, from 9 p.m. until 10 a.m. the next day, with readings, stagings and art related to the exhibit. The next 24-hour screenings will be on April 26 and May 10, and the exhibit closes on May 19.
4) Back in Jerusalem, the Inbal Hotel is hosting the annual Kol HaOt illuminated Haggadah fair on April 2, with origami workshops on frogs, shadow theater on darkness, and three excellent local speakers, including Micah Goodman, Gila Fine, and Rachelle Fraenkel, all speaking about Passover in contemporary terms.
If you want another look at contemporary Judaica, take a short walk over to the Hutzot Hayotzer gallery, where each artist will be exhibiting their take on Passover items, from March 22 through April 8. (You could also think about snagging a new seder plate or haggadah before the holiday begins.)
One more place to view Passover themes expressed is at the Holon Insitute of Technology, where the next generation of industrial designers is exhibiting their most recent creations, including a modern seder plate, a women’s prayer shawl, and of particular interest right now, a foldable cardboard crib, for refugee mothers.
There will be free concerts held at the Ralli museums in Caesarea, which is celebrating their now annual Cameri festival. There’s opera for the whole family, a selection of Israel Philharmonic musicians playing on April 3, and the trio of Shlomo Gronich, Ronen Shapuira and Uri Hollander, also performing on April 3. There are no fees for the concerts, but you do have to register ahead of time, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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