Israelis prepares for Passover festival

AP News
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Posted: Apr 05, 2012 11:06 AM
Israelis prepares for Passover festival

Passover celebrates the biblical story of the Israelites' escape from slavery and exodus from Egypt. The story recounts that God killed the first-born boys of Egypt after the pharaoh refused to release the children of Israel from bondage, but "passed over" the houses of the Israelites.

Distraught over the death of his own son, the pharaoh let the Israelites go. They were then given the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai and wandered in the desert for 40 years before arriving in the Land of Israel.

The holiday begins with a traditional meal called a seder, in which extended families gather to retell the story of the exodus. For the next week, observant Jews do not eat bread, and instead eat unleavened crackers called matzoh.

The tradition of eating matzoh comes from the Bible's account that the Jews left Egypt in such a hurry that there was no time to allow the bread to rise.

Passover is a major Jewish festival and also the unofficial beginning of spring in Israel. In the days before the holiday, Israelis frantically clean their homes and cars, schools go on vacation, and supermarkets and marketplaces enjoy some of their busiest days of the year.