Before visiting Israel, we’d not had much experience of Jewish festivals or holidays. That’s why we were completely unaware that our trip was booked not just over Easter, but Passover as well, meaning we had double the religious festivals to deal with in the holy land.
Surprisingly, we found that Passover had as much (if not more) impact on our trip than Ramadan has in any country. In Israel, this festival is a really big event and whether you are Jewish or not, you’ll be impacted by Passover.
Here’s what to expect.
What is Passover
Passover is an ancient celebration of the Israelites leaving Egypt to return to the Holy Land. It is a week long festival that occurs in spring, but exact dates change every year (just like Easter). The festival commences at night - just like shabbat - and continues until the final sunset.
You’ll find in Israel that Passover is observed by hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and just about everywhere. There’s no real choice in the matter, you will be participating in Passover!
The impact of Passover in Israel
As a traveller, we’d recommend avoiding going to Israel during Passover if at all possible. It is a relatively private festival and not something you’ll really get much from observing unlike Ramadan which we have found to be a very rewarding period to travel in. The major implications are around cost and just how crazy busy everywhere gets.
Prices fly up dramatically
Passover coincides with school holidays and a lot of Israelis take the whole week off to travel round their country. It is like the equivalent of school summer holidays, leading to hotels selling out quickly and even the most underwhelming places can suddenly cost a fortune.
Before we arrived we couldn’t understand why there was only one hotel in the whole of Eilat left during these dates and often the only options available were overpriced and often small and dirty.
Unless you are really passionate about visiting during Passover, we wouldn’t recommend footing the extra cost. As a non-Jewish person, we didn’t notice any festivities or cultural experiences to take part in to make it worth the downsides.
Everywhere becomes ridiculously busy
Another major impact is that everywhere becomes incredibly crowded, even in the desert! We visited the Red Sea and saw that there wasn’t an inch of space on the 10km road all the way from Eilat to the Egyptian border at Taba! There were several layers of cars parked on the beach and along the road, making it impossible to get anywhere near the snorkelling sites! The traffic in places like Eilat became insane, we would regularly sit for up to an hour in traffic just to get out of town!
This was the same with Ein Avdat - a national park in the middle of the desert by Mitzpe Ramon. It became so busy that the cars were beginning to back up the hill to the town nearby.
The worst time is the weekends around Passover, but you will find just about everywhere is rammed at all times!
Menus change - bread lovers beware!
This isn’t a biggie, but the menus everywhere change to remove “chametz” for Passover. This mainly means that you’ll be eating unleavened bread, we missed pita pockets as prior to Passover this had been our staple cheap meal (we were travelling on a tight budget).
Again, not a major thing, but unleavened bread is pretty bad! As menus also change during Shabbat it felt a bit difficult at points to eat easily. This will affect you more if you’re on a budget.
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Are you planning a trip to Israel? Would you visit during Passover? Let us know in the comments below!