Jews throughout Israel and the Diaspora are not the only ones getting ready for the Passover holiday, which begins Friday.
At the Ramat Gan Safari park, near Tel Aviv, apes, elephants, lemurs and other residents are already enjoying the flat unleavened bread — matzah — which is eaten instead of bread during the eight-day festival.
Passover marks the exodus of the Israelites from ancient Egypt which, according to the Bible, unfolded so quickly that the Jews had no time to let their bread rise.
Religious law mandates that leavened food should not be consumed during the celebration, which starts Friday evening — hence the practice of giving animals matzah rather than bread.
For the same reason, animals out in the fields will be fed a kosher for Passover mix of corn and beans that will be stored separately from their usual food.
Safari staff emphasize that matzah is given only as a supplement to the animals’ main diet of fruit and vegetables. Outside of Passover, keepers provide bread in the mornings to check that the animals are eating normally and not displaying any signs of illness.
And just as Jewish families are busy scrubbing down their homes to ensure that no leavened food — chametz — remains, safari staff are carrying out their annual spring cleaning of the animal enclosures.
Passover originated as a spring agricultural festival celebrating the readiness of the barley. The country is carpeted in greenery and wildflowers at this time and at the safari, as in nature, many animals are giving birth.
In expectation of large crowds during the holiday, the safari is asking the public not to feed the animals as this can cause sickness, obesity, and food fights which can lead to injury.
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