Pass it on

For 117,000 Israelis with Pesach-related names, the holiday never ends

Alongside 112,000 Moshes, there are 1,4290 Pesachs; 3,795 Nisans and even four Matzas

Young students in Beitar Illit simulate the Passover Seder on March 20, 2023 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Young students in Beitar Illit simulate the Passover Seder on March 20, 2023 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

For most Israelis, Passover comes and Passover goes.

But it’s a more permanent presence in the lives of the at least 117,000-odd people in Israel whose first names refer to the Jewish holiday or characters in the Biblical story behind it.

Most of them, or 112,205, are named Moshe, the Hebrew-language version of Moses, the story’s main protagonist, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, which last week published data on Passover-related names.

A distant second was Nisan, the Jewish-calendar month when Passover occurs, with 3,680 males and 115 females. Pesach, the Hebrew-language name for Passover, came in third with 1,419 males. A masculine noun, it is nonetheless the first name of one woman, the report said.

The CBS’s report includes no fewer than 90 women whose first name has the same spelling as Moshe in Hebrew, but which is pronounced Masha – a common name in several Slavic languages. Similarly, the list of female names includes one whose Hebrew-language spelling is identical to Pharaoh, but which may be pronounced Farrah.

The list includes names with a looser connection to the holiday, like Omer, the name of a seven-week period from the second day of Passover until Shavuot and also an ancient measurement of grain (39,149 males and 5,919 women). Heirut, which means liberty, is the first name of 284 females and six males. Also included in the list were Aviv, Hebrew for spring (13,510 and 5,237), and Aviva (no men and 8,956 women.)

There are also four females, and no males, apparently named Matza.

The number of people named for Passover may reflect the importance of the holiday, which is one of Judaism’s three pilgrimage festivals and sometimes referred to as the second-most significant date on the Jewish calendar, after Yom Kippur.

Only about 50,000 Israelis have first names that refer to Hanukkah, Judaism’s main winter holiday, according to a CBS report from last year.

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