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March 22, 2013     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 22, 2013
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 22, 2013 PAGE 11A By Edmon J. Rodman LOS ANGELES (JTA)--If the Passover haggadah seems like hieroglyphics to you, it could be a good thing. Though the Israelites left Egypt presumably to escape the ankhs and eyes of Horus of the ancient written language, recently I discovered that hieroglyphics--a system of pictorial characters--had a way of writing me into the haggadah. Considering that on Pass- over we are commanded to re-enact an event of which we have no memory, perhaps adding some details from the Egyptian point of view might deepen our understanding, or at the very least acclimate us to the theme of leaving Egypt. Besides, since the current Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi had been seen recently in a video telling Egyptians to teach their children hatred for Jews, I was looking for away to ameliorate my own responsive charged feelings and notbring them to the seder table. Carol Meyers, a professor of religion at Duke University in an interview on the PBS show "NOVA," related, "There are other ways of understanding how people have recorded events of their past. There's something called mnemohis- tory, or memory history," she said. "It's a kind of collective cultural memory." I wondered, would looking into the holiday with an Egyp- tian eye help me to recover some of that cultural memory and see past the present? After sitting through seders for so many years, where a trip through the Exodus often becomes an endurance race to the matzah ball soup, I knew that my cultural memory definitely could use some aug- mentation and elaboration. To freshen my "mnemo- history'--this being Los Angeles, where movie magic memories are made--I made tracks for the historic Egyp- tian Theater in the heart of the Hollywood Boulevard tourist district. The theater, an ornate Egyptian Revival movie pal- ace that had a large stage to accommodate the elaborate prologues before the films, recently was refurbished. Developed by Charles Tober- man along with the Jewish impresario Sid Grauman of Grauman's Chinese Theater fame, the theater had opened in 1922. As luck would have it, a few weeks later, King Tutankhamen's tomb was dis- covered in Egypt, resulting in an Egyptian craze that swept the nation. Further connecting the theater to the Exodus, I found that the "The Ten Command- ments" debuted there in 1923. According to the theater's website, the prologue for the Cecil B. DeMille silent epic featured more than 100 cos- tumed performers on stage, including "players seen in their identical roles in the flesh and blood." Now doesn't that beat Uncle Earl droning through the Four Sons? Still thinking about those costumes, I left in haste for the theater. Upon arriving at its col- umned courtyard, I sat on a bench for a pre-holiday lunch of matzah and hard-boiled egg. Looking out at the sur- rounding cement walls that were cast to resemble stone blocks, I read a passage from a haggadah that I had brought along: "They put taskmasters over them to oppress them in their suffering; and they built the store-cities for Pharaoh, Pithom and Ramses." Brenda Rodman Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics painted on a Hollywood theater wall inspire a new reading of the Passover haggadah. And movie theaters as well? As I poured myself a little juice, I tried to decipher the hieroglyphics--scarabs, ankhs, jackals, birds and snakes--that were painted on a nearby wall. For me, Egyptian imagery conjures up a creepy feeling of deja vu. Was it a cultural memory from the generations spent in Egypt? More likely just the result of too many haggadahs illustrated with pyramids, crooks and flails. Even if the Exodus story has no basis in historical evidence, it is such a keystone story, so imbedded in Jewish outlook and religious practice, that when you see the signs of Egypt, even in kitschy indecipherable fashion, they speak to you. On the hieroglyphics wall there were no cute wind-up frogs or Ten Plagues puppets like the kids have at the seder. But looking up at them, I won- dered whether after the hail, lice, boils and cattle death if some Egyptians might have wanted to inscribe "Hebrews go now" on a wall. Below the hieroglyphics I noticed a couple of car- touches. Originally worn by the pharaohs, the oval-shaped inscriptions could be worn as an amulet or be placed on a tomb. Thinking about the 10th plague--the death of the Egyptian firstborn--I imag- ined the resulting stacks of amulets. It put new meaning in the seder custom of tak- ing a drop of wine from our cups, demonstrating that we are not rejoicing over our enemy's loss. Curious how my own name would look on a cartouche-- as apparently are others--I used my smartphone to go a hieroglyphics website that provides the Egyptian symbols to spell your name. Mine was represented by two reeds, a hand, an owl, a hawk and water--images that made me feel like I was connected to a body of water; making me think of the shore of the Red Sea. To get to Passover, it was time to cross. Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at edmojace@ gmail.com. By Judy Lash Balint JNS.org JERUSALEM--Not every Israeli observes Passover, but every Israeli knows Passover is coming. Preparations for the sev- en-day holiday are impos- sible to ignore and encroach on almost every facet of life in the weeks leading up to Seder night. Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics reveals that 88 percent of Israelis will take part in a Seder and 47 percent will eat only kosher for Passover items during the holiday. As for Israel's army, some 200 IDF chaplains, includ- ing reservists, are pressed into service to commence the massive task of kosher- ing the hundreds of kitch- ens, mess halls and eating corners used by soldiers at bases all over the country. According to Rabbi Zev Roness, a captain in the Ar- mored Training School, "It's a whole operation... The army prepares more than a month before Passover to ensure that all of the army kitchens meet the highest kosher-for Passover stan- dards." Street scenes in Israel change every day before Passover according to what's halakhically neces- sary: Several days before the Seder, young men wielding blow torches preside over huge vats of boiling water stationed every few blocks on the street and in the courtyard of every mikveh. The lines to dunk metal utensils start to grow ev- ery day, and at the last minute before the Seder, blow torches are at the ready to cleanse every last gram of chametz from oven racks and stove tops lugged through the streets by kids or overwrought mothers. Prominent newspaper ads from Israel's Energy Ministry feature dire warn- Koshering under way ings about the dangers inherent in cleaning gas burners. The text of the ads advises on the minutiae of taking apart the metal cov- ers to get at that last bit of chametz. No alarm clock is needed in the pre-Passover period- clanging garbage trucks do the trick as they roll through the neighborhood every morning during the two weeks before Passover to accommodate all the refuse from the furious cleaning going on. Two days before the Seder, there's the annual pickup of oversized items and appli- ances. Dozens of antiquated computer monitors and old toaster ovens stand forlorn- ly next to the garbage bins. The day before Passover, families seek out empty lots to burn the remainder of their chametz gleaned from the previous night's meticulous search. The city Judy Lash Balint on a Jerusalem street. is dotted with sputtering fires despite ads posted by the Jerusalem municipality announcing the location of official chametz burning bins and banning fires in any other areas. Most flower shops stay open all night for the two days before Passover, work- ing feverishly to complete the orders that will grace the nation's Seder tables. Observant Jews mark the seven weeks between Pass- over and Shavuot by car- rying out some of the laws of mourning-one of these is the prohibition against cutting hair. As a result, barber and beauty shops are jammed with customers in the pre-Passover days. Mailboxes overflow with appeals from a myriad of organizations helping the poor. Newspapers are replete with articles about altruis- tic Israelis who volunteer by the hundreds in the weeks before the holiday to collect, package and distribute Pass- over supplies to the needy. In Jerusalem alone, more than 40 restaurants close a few days before Passover. They clean out their kitch- ens, revamp their menus arid open up with rabbinic supervision for the holiday to serve kosher-for-Passover meals to tourists as well as the hordes that are sick of cooking after the Seder. Since most of the coun- try is on vacation for the entire week of Passover, all kinds of entertainment and trips are on offer. The annual Boombamela beach festival, kid's activities at the Bloomfield Science Mu- seum, concerts in Hebron, explorations at the City of David, solidarity excursions to the Shomron and music festivals at the Dead Sea are all popular. The popular Hebrew Bananagram game has even invented a special Passover version with points for words in the Haggada. The Passover theme of freedom and exodus in Israel even extends to criminals. Israel Radio announces that 700 prisoners will get a fur- lough to spend the holiday with family. According to the Minis- try of Agriculture, Israel's fishmongers will sell 1,100 tons of carp, 80 tons of St. Peters fish and 300 tons of mullet this Passover season to satisfy the tastes of gefilte fish lovers, as well as the Moroccan-style chraime fish eaters. In every ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, men and boys block the narrow streets with hand trucks piled high with sacks of car- rots, potatoes and oranges and cartons of eggs--all courtesy of the Kimcha D'Pischa funds that funnel donations from abroad to Israeli Haredim. At the entrance to many large supermarkets, teenag- ers hand out flyers listing suggested items generous shoppers may purchase to be placed in bins for distribu- tion to needy families. Israel's chief rabbis sell the nation's chametz to one Hussein Jabar, a Moslem Arab resident ofAbu Ghosh. Estimated worth: $150 bil- lion secured by a down pay- ment of NIS 100,000. Jabar took over the task some 16 years ago, after the previ- ous buyer, also from Abu Ghosh, was fired when it was discovered his maternal grandmother was Jewish. At the Kotei, workers per- form the twice-yearly ritual (pre-Passover and pre-Rosh Hashanah) of removing thousands of personal notes stuffed into the crevices of the Kotel, prior to burying them on the Mt of Olives. Finally, the end of Pass- over is marked by the festive Maimouna, a traditional holiday celebrated by North African Jews immediately following Passover. In recent years, Maimou- na has become a national day marked by music, eating sweets and pastries and po- litical glad-handing before everyone heads back to work until the fast-approaching season of Holocaust Re- membrance Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Jerusalem Day. Your in Orlando Real Estate!!!! 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