Mimouna in Jerusalem
Mimouna in JerusalemIsrael news photo: Flash 90 / archive

Israelis were wrapping up the Passover holiday on Monday evening, preparing to put away their Passover dishes and return to their normal, bread-based diet.

For many Israelis, the end of Passover is marked by Mimouna, traditionally celebrated by Moroccan Jews but now adopted by Israelis of all backgrounds. and a national holiday since 1966.

 Mimouna is a spring festival and is marked by the preparation and eating of fancy cakes and cookies, and the “moufletta” pancake. It begins several hours after the Passover holiday and continues the next day. It is a convivial holiday when people visit each other's homes, eat delicacies lavishly served by their hosts and repeat the greeting "tirbechu vetisadu" -"gain and partake of our repast". Its name derives, according to some sources, from the name of the father of Maimonides, the 12th century prolific Torah sage who made his home in Egypt, who was supposed to have died on that day.

The Mimouna, meaning luck in Arabic, also celebrates the start of spring and the renewed consumption of leavened products after Passover. Eating in one another's houses is a symbol of unity, in contrast to the custom of not eating in one another's homes for the week of Passover due to differing levels of adherence to the stringent laws regarding "chametz", leavened products.

Some say the Mimouna demonstrates the Jewish people's faith in the coming of the Redemption. 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.

Mimouna is also an occasion for politicians in Israel to visit with their constituencies, and MKs from nearly all political parties will be attending Mimouna celebrations on Monday night and Tuesday. The main Mimouna event will take place in Jerusalem, headed by Mayor Nir Barkat and with the participation of the chief rabbis. Commerce and and Industry Minister Naftali Bennett and other MKs and ministers from Bayit Yehudi will attend festivities in the southern town of Netivot.

Meanwhile, Israelis on Monday experienced what weather forecasters said was the worst air pollution to hit the country in three years. The pollution was caused by dust storms from North Africa that were carried into Israel's atmosphere by southerly winds. Magen David Adom rescue workers handled over 100 cases of shortness of breath and other health problems related to the weather.

The dust should begin to dissipate over Monday night, but health officials recommended that the elderly, children, and those suffering from health problems like heart conditions, limit their outdoor activities.