Thursday, May 17, 2012

Isn't Passover About Leaving Egypt?

Last month I had my third Passover in Israel, and I have yet to have one in Jerusalem! In case you are not Jewish, which I'm assuming probably 95% of the 5 people that read this are not...during the Passover meal called the "seder" we say, every year, "next year in Jerusalem." It kind of makes you want to fulfill that statement, no matter where in the world you are celebrating. Well, there is always next year. As for this year...

I spent almost the entire holiday of the exodus of Egypt on base, ironically close to Egypt.  Already a few days before the holiday started the dining hall was cleaned from top to bottom, immaculately, in order to ensure that there is no possibility that something that contains leavened bread, or ingredients that are not kosher for passover, would remain. This means, however, that  few days before the holiday we were already eating only kosher for passover foods--no leavened bread, nothing that contains wheat, gluten, all those good things. Some Jews also forbid the eating of legumes (takes out beans, rice, many nuts, etc) and if some Jews forbid it that means the army forbids it. Not only did the kitchen staff have to clean, though, the entire base had to partake in the biggest spring cleaning session you have ever seen, ourselves very much included. I found myself ending night shifts at 8am by moving closets, drawers, and tables to clean behind them, every inch of anywhere we were going to be during the week of Passover had to be meticulously cleaned, in order to make sure it is all kosher for passover.

Although of course this was a little tedious and annoying at times, I was torn between how amazing it was at the same time. I, half Jewish, converted, raised in an overwhelmingly catholic world, used to be the only kid in school (except my sister) who brought matza sandwiches for lunch during Passover...and boy did people make funny comments. Now I'm serving in a military where it is commanded for every single base in the entire military, to be kosher for passover. How crazy is that? Who would have thought a place like this existed back in the "lame kid with matza sandwiches and no good candy/chocolate on Easter" days.

The seder meal was pretty fun on base, the Rabbi was hilarious, keeping us entertained through the long reading of the Hagada (the book you read before the meal every year about the story of the exodus from Egypt). He played games and gave out prizes to correct answers, even though the commander's families and kids got most of the answers right because they're all religious and the majority of soldiers on base aren't...embarrassing. Anyway, the two most adorable 3 year olds sang "the four questions" which is always sung by the youngest at the meal. It's funny that I could probably only master singing that part of the story at about age...8? 10? and I still had no idea what I was singing, since it's in Hebrew of course.  I hit my peak of Hebrew learning in preschool actually, since I went to a Jewish preschool, and I'm sure I could sing it then...and then promptly forgot.

We finally made it around to the meal at some point, which was overwhelmingly disappointing, unfortunately. Besides the fact that I'm a goofy, I guess you could say picky eater (exacerbated in the army) the food just wasn't very good. A preview to the week to come of potatoes, potatoes, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, hashbrown potatoes, potatoes soaked in oil, french fries, potatoes, and probably more potatoes. Oh, and if you wanted the vegetarian option, which I often eat since I hardly manage to eat chicken (red meat-never manage) in the army, then you probably were eating some combination guessed it...potatoes! Did I mention I don't eat potatoes? especially in the army? Needless to say, it was a long week. One night we had sweet potatoes! That was amazing, I was very happy. I managed to make it through the week without eating matza either, now that I think about it...I have no idea what I ate. Lots of rice cakes, and one day we made rice noodle stir-fry.

With two days left of Passover it was time to leave base for the weekend.  Allie made a delicious, kosher for passover, filling and satisfying meal at home, man was I excited! Quinoa salad (best kosher for passover find ever), chicken, vegetable salad, and kosher for Passover wine! The next day Mommy was arriving!!!

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