The IDF rabbinate’s busiest day of the year

By Wednesday night, every IDF kitchen had to be ready for Passover

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

The Passover cleaning process in Meah Shearim (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/ Flash 90)
The Passover cleaning process in Meah Shearim (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/ Flash 90)

The world’s largest Passover cleaning began at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning and had to be finished by sundown, at which time every base, room, kitchen and coffee counter in the IDF was ready for the holiday.

“Operation Passover” is the busiest day of the year for the army rabbinate. The reserves are called up. Hesder yeshiva students are taken out of their study rooms. All told, some 2,500 soldiers set to the task of cleaning, and often supervising the cleaning, of the army’s many kitchens.

Cutting boards, knives, deep fryers, strainers and frying pans are put away and locked in containers. Grains and bread products are sealed away in metal cabinets, soon to be sold off by the defense minister. Tens of thousands of plates and sets of silverware along with all of the army’s meat and milk pots are dunked in boiling water and made kosher for the holiday. Rabbinate supervisors unlock the warehouses where the Passover utensils and appliances are stored. Soldiers scrub counters and clear the charred remains of old meals out of the commercial ovens.

And then they bring in the new.

According to Major Rabbi Asher Landau, the head of the kashrut department in the IDF rabbinate, the IDF’s Passover purchases are tremendous and they include: 220,000 pounds of matzo meal, 155,000 pounds of matzo, 7,500 pounds of meat for brisket, 25,000 liters of grape juice (there will be no wine whatsoever), 20,000 pounds of marble cake and some 30,000 pounds of powered kneidelach mix.

Every base in the country will host a Passover Seder headed by one of the rabbinate’s representatives. Every army liaison in the world has received a package of basic Passover goods and every soldier, “whether on guard duty or on an ambush”, according to Rabbi Landau, will receive a kit that includes four individual cups, a bottle of grape juice, matzo, romaine lettuce, haroset, parsley and a Haggadah printed by the IDF rabbinate.

As has been the custom over the past decade or so, the IDF will abide by the strict Ashkenazi codes of Passover, banning all grains and legumes. The milk products are under the ultra-Orthodox “Badatz” supervision. The entire IDF kitchen is at the mehadrin level, Rabbi Landau explained, “so that all of us can come together around the same table.”

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