My First Passover Seder: Is this the bitter vegetable?

I am not Jewish. For many, my choice to live in Israel, a Jewish country, provokes statements like ‘it must be so weird!’. At no other time is this statement more true than at Passover Seder. If I belonged to an organized religion I may have found some similarity in the traditions and processes each person performs at the dinner table on this Jewish holiday, but I am not religious and have not experienced anything like the public Seder three of my colleagues and I attended.

The four hour ceremony began with singing and prayer as we walked into the Synagogue and were greeted by gracious hosts and children dancing. We took our seats near the group of adults singing and exchanged awkward and curious glances amongst ourselves and at the plate of Passover traditions sitting at the dinner table between us. In between dipping symbolic vegetables into salt water, debating which vegetable came next (is this the bitter vegetable?) and nibbling on matzoh, I listened to quickly spoken Hebrew prayers, understanding very little and failing for the most part to follow along in my English book. My three companions and I were given two 14-year-old translators, and although they gave up on translating early on I thoroughly enjoyed their jokes and imitative dance moves throughout the evening.

photo credit to Jing Lee

photo credit to Jing Lee

photo credit to Jing Lee

photo credit to Jing Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful to be included in this holiday and in the nearby community, we partook in each step as diligently as we could, and tasted each meal when it came time to eat. Some of us enjoyed the gefilte fish, others did not, and we all had our opinions about the ceremonial wine (is this just sugar water?). But I know I concluded the evening with  much more appreciation for the Jewish community and the traditions they partake in each year on Passover and each Friday night.