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Israel Celebrates Mimouna

Israel is celebrating the Mimouna, the traditional festival of North African Jews observed as the Passover holiday departs.
By Gavriel Queenann and Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 4/25/2011, 11:08 PM / Last Update: 4/26/2011, 12:01 AM

Israel's President Shimon Peres, Sephardic Chief Rabbi "Rishon Lezion" Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Jerusalem's mayor Nir Barkat, Knesset members, and soldiers from the Givati ​​Brigade were on hand Monday night to kick off the annual Mimouna festival in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood.

 

Israel's President Shimon Peres, Sephardic Chief Rabbi "Rishon LeTzion" Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Jerusalem's mayor Nir Barkat, Knesset members, and soldiers from the Givati ​​Brigade were on hand Monday night to kick off the annual Mimouna festival in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah enjoyed an open house in Or Akiva, where the traditional Mimouna delicacies were served. Knesset Members also were on hand to celebrate Mimouna and the 60th anniversary of the founding of Or Akiva

Speaking of the Sephardic festival, the Prime Minister said, "We celebrate the feast of one of the most important Jewish communities. This holiday has become a feast of all of Israel and expresses our desire for unity as a people. Like many joys, even this is mixed with sadness. I send our condolences to the Livnat family on the murder of Ben Yosef [killed by Palestinian Authority police Sunday morning], and we do not forget our efforts to return the captives and soldiers missing in action, especially Gilad Shalit.

”Mimouna is a celebration originating among "Maghrebim" [North African Jews] held the day after Passover. Historically it marks the start of spring and the permissibility of eating leavened products after their prohibition during the holiday. It is also popularly treated as a celebration of the Rambam, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, the great medieval Torah luminary, for whom many say the festival is named.

After settling in Israel, Jewish immigrants from North Africa celebrated Mimouna with their families in their communities. In 1966, however, it was adopted as a national holiday, and has since been adopted by other ethnic groups. Mimouna is often celebrated with outdoor parties, picnics, and BBQs.

Traditionally, the celebration begins after nightfall on the last day of Passover. Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian Jews throw open their homes to visitors, after setting out a lavish spread of post Passover holiday cakes and sweetmeats.

It is customary for the feasting table to be laid with attention to the number "5," such as 5 pieces of gold jewelry or 5 beans arranged on a leaf of pastry.

Mimouna demonstrates the Jewish people's  faith in the coming of the Redemption, one of the Rambam's 13 Principles of Jewish belief.  As Nissan is the month of redemption from Egypt and is said by the Talmud  to be the month in which the future redemption will occur, If the Messiah has not arrived by the festival's end, the celebration emphasises unswerving faith that he will arrive one day, that we are living in a period of emerging redemption. This is in accordance with the Rambam's 12th principle: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. And though he may be delayed, I will await his coming every day."

Mimouna also demonstrates the unity of Israel due to the custom of many not to eat in the homes of their neighbors on Passover because of personal stringencies pertaining to kashrut on the holiday. Thus, Jews go to one another's homes to celebrate and partake of food at the end of Passover to show that the nation's hearts are united.

Finally, Mimouna expresses our hope the abundance of Passover will continue through the year.