Israel relaxes into a Passover much freer of COVID closures than last year

Jews prepare ahead of Passover as Israel begins to emerge from COVID-19 pandemic closures
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men burn leavened bread ahead of the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover as the country begins to emerge from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic closures due to its rapid vaccine roll-out, in the Mea Shearim neighbourhood of Jerusalem, March 26, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

March 26, 2021

By Stephen Farrell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – At Passover last year, Israel was locked down and families confined to their homes by COVID-19 restrictions, but this year the mood is very different.

Ahead of the Jewish holiday celebrating freedom from biblical slavery, Israelis packed food markets to do last-minute shopping for the “seder” dinner, a traditional family gathering which last year had to be shared online for many Israelis.

Passover begins on March 27, just two days after the health ministry announced that half the country had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

The world-beating rollout has helped the country emerge from pandemic closures, even as it remains mired in political deadlock following a fourth inconclusive election in two years.

“So very happy that the whole family is gathering together, to celebrate with everyone together,” said Sasha Shunary, 41, in a Tel Aviv market. “Last year we had it on Zoom.”

(Reporting by Corinna Kern, Sinan Abu Mayzer, Ammar Awad and Amir Cohen; Writing by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Dan Grebler)