As we celebrate Passover and Easter this year, we’re delighted to share some reflections on Passover from one of our tour guides in Israel. Shai Nahon is the owner and founder of Shai Nahon—Ecological Tourism, otherwise known as ShaiTours, one of the leading tour companies in Israel. We’ve asked him a few questions about what Passover is like for him in Israel, and we’re excited for you to hear his insights about this special season.
How will you celebrate Passover?
Shai Nahon: We join together as a family at my parents house, with my parents, my brother and his family (wife and 2 kids), my sister and our family (my wife and 2 girls). We have a festive Passover meal as we read the “Hagada” (the retelling of the the Passover story) as was done in the jewish world for thousands of years. We bless the wine and the Matza (unleavened bread) and eat all of the traditional foods that are associated with this holiday.
We sing, feast and enjoy each other’s company. We drink at least 4 cups of wine (as is traditionally required) and after the meal is done we move to the living room and enjoy dessert as we celebrate my sister’s birthday (that happens on the same date).
What is meaningful about Passover to you?
SN: It wasn’t always meaningful to me. Only after I started researching my Jewish heritage and realized how many persecutions the Jews have survived (including the modern ones such as the Holocaust) did I come to the realization that this should not be taken for granted and started enjoying it. It is, more than anything else, a time of family and a time for me to see my girls interact. Very similar to a Christmas gathering for many American Christians.
What are Passover celebrations like in Jerusalem/elsewhere in Israel?
SN: On every major Jewish holiday, there are big prayers conducted at the West Wall and massive crowds flock to those. This is a holiday that originally held a pilgrimage demand to the Temple and many Jews come to the West Wall instead today or go up to Temple Mount. The next week is a holiday and most Israelis go traveling, hiking, relaxing etc. As this marks the beginning of the spring season in Israel, this is the perfect time to enjoy nature and the outdoors. This year, due to Covid-19 and the lack of tourism, the holiday will have a unique atmosphere without a doubt.
What do you think Christians need to know about Passover?
SN: “Need” is too strong a word. I would say that if Christians want to learn about Passover, they should start with the realization that 2,000 years ago, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for this holiday. The “Last Supper” is in fact the Passover meal, and the whole crowd around them is doing the same at the time. Praying throughout the night at Gethsemane is a personal moment for Jesus but I see his demand of the Disciples to remain awake as a reproach as everyone is demanded to read the “Hagada” throughout the night.
There is a lot more that can be discussed such as the significance of the sacrificial rites at the Temple at those times and the connection of Jesus as the “Sacrificial Lamb”… those who wish can read more about that on my blog. (This post will be available the last week of March 2021.)