Many people dream of spending the Passover Festival in Jerusalem. And indeed, the city sees thousands of visitors during this time, from abroad and from within Israel. This should not come as a surprise, as in addition to the holiday itself, there are special and unique activities all over the city.
Creative and Traditional Passover Cuisine
One of the main ways that Jews mark Passover is by refraining from eating bread and other leavened foods. This means eating not only matzah, but other dishes with ingredients adapted to the holiday. During the Passover festival in Jerusalem, the bakeries in the Mahane Yehuda market are overflowing with fresh macaroons, almond-flour cookies and other special desserts.
Restaurants and cafes also adapt their menus, offering special “kosher for Passover” dishes. You can find everything from pasta made from potatoes to Passover-friendly croutons. The Passover dietary restrictions actually often result in more creativity from Jerusalem’s vibrant and fresh food scene.
Free Museums, Tours and Special Events
During the holiday, many of the city’s largest and more well-known museums, including the Israel Museum, are free to enter. This makes Passover an especially worthwhile time to stop by museums, which are also often offering extra activities or special tours.
Another not-to-miss event is the priestly blessing at the Western Wall. Twice a year–during Passover and during Sukkot—men who are kohanim, thought to be direct descendants of Aaron the biblical priest, come from all over the country and the world to bless the Jewish people. This happens during the morning prayer service at the Western Wall on the second day of the Passover festival. Hundreds of men wearing prayer shawls extend their arms in blessing, creating a special atmosphere that draws thousands of people.
It is also Easter during the Passover Festival in Jerusalem
The Passover festival in Jerusalem also often overlaps with or happens close to Easter, which is celebrated by the city’s Christian population as well as international visitors. Special events for Easter include a procession on the Via Dolorosa, retracing what Christians believe were the last steps of Jesus before the crucifixion. There are also special religious services and Masses at Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Holy Saturday, the night before Easter, and on Easter Sunday itself.
At the Garden Tomb, a Protestant Holy site believed to be the tomb of Jesus, there are also services for Easter. With the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches following different calendars, there are also often two Sundays on which Easter is celebrated in Jerusalem. More information about Easter services can be found here.