Safari animals munch on matzah as Passover nears
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Safari animals munch on matzah as Passover nears

Unleavened bread and kosher-for-Passover feed provided at Ramat Gan Safari Park in line with festival injunction to steer clear of leavened products

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

  • A chimpanzee at the Ramat Gan Safari enjoys Passover matza (Gideon Markowicz for the Ramat Gan Safari.)
    A chimpanzee at the Ramat Gan Safari enjoys Passover matza (Gideon Markowicz for the Ramat Gan Safari.)
  • A picture taken on March 27, 2018 at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv, shows a lemur eating traditional matzah (unleavened bread) in the run up to the Jewish holiday of Passover. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
    A picture taken on March 27, 2018 at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv, shows a lemur eating traditional matzah (unleavened bread) in the run up to the Jewish holiday of Passover. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
  • A picture taken on March 27, 2018 at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv, shows a gorilla eating traditional matzah (unleavened bread) in the run up to the Jewish holiday of Passover. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
    A picture taken on March 27, 2018 at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv, shows a gorilla eating traditional matzah (unleavened bread) in the run up to the Jewish holiday of Passover. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
  • A picture taken on March 27, 2018, shows a lemur at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv eating traditional Matza (unleavened bread) in the run up to the Jewish holiday of Passover. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
    A picture taken on March 27, 2018, shows a lemur at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv eating traditional Matza (unleavened bread) in the run up to the Jewish holiday of Passover. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
  • A picture taken on March 27, 2018 at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv, shows an orangutan eating traditional matzah (unleavened bread) in the run up to the Jewish holiday of Passover. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
    A picture taken on March 27, 2018 at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv, shows an orangutan eating traditional matzah (unleavened bread) in the run up to the Jewish holiday of Passover. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
  • A chimpanzee with a double helping of matzah at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv, undated. (Gideon Markowicz for the Ramat Gan Safari)
    A chimpanzee with a double helping of matzah at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv, undated. (Gideon Markowicz for the Ramat Gan Safari)

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.

A picture taken on March 27, 2018 at the Ramat Gan Safari Park near Tel Aviv, shows an orangutan eating traditional matzah (unleavened bread) in the run up to the Jewish holiday of Passover. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

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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