Next year in Jerusalem. But this year, on television.
Israeli networks are hosting televised Seders so that nobody has to celebrate alone, despite the pandemic that has put a halt to family gatherings.
The country’s most-watched TV station, Keshet 12, will start its star-studded event at 7:30 p.m., Israel time, Wednesday night. Billed as “The Great Israeli Seder,” it will be hosted by Corinne Gideon and Haim Etgar, both beloved television presenters. They will perform the ritual — which involves reading the story of the Exodus from Egypt in addition to eating certain foods — by videoconference with a virtual tableful of celebrities.
After the live show is complete, the it will be available for viewers around the globe at this link, said a Keshet spokeswoman, adding that nothing like this has ever been done before in Israel, and the network is getting interest from viewers overseas.
The first night of Passover is usually the biggest family gathering of the year for most Israelis. Young and old, secular and religious — 97% of Israeli Jews usually gather for the Seder.
But this year, the holiday will be observed under a national lockdown, ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu precisely because the Seder is so widely celebrated in normal times. All travel between cities is forbidden from Tuesday afternoon to Friday morning, and citizens will be required to stay in their homes altogether starting Wednesday evening until Thursday morning. As of Monday, 59 people in Israel have died of the virus, and there are 9,006 confirmed cases.
Hence the networks’ offerings, which combine religion with reality TV. At the Great Israeli Seder, Gideon, Etgar and a few other studio guests (separated by an appropriate distance) will eat a meal prepared by celebrity chef Shaul Ben-Aderet that will include chopped liver, Moroccan-style “chraimeh” fish, Greek-style savory pastries and a hearty stew. Famed actress Hana Laszlo and singer Pablo Rosenberg will be joining them at the table, and a whole host of guests are slated to make an appearance via video link — including President Reuven Rivlin and politicians Avigdor Lieberman and Yair Lapid.
In between sections of the Exodus story as told in the Haggadah, the hosts will cut to celebrities in their homes including singers Rita, Shiri Maimon and Ninet Tayeb; comedians and actors Lior Asheknazi, Rotem Abuhav and Hanoch Daum; and journalists Ilana Dayan and Danny Kushmaro.
KAN, Israel’s public broadcaster, will also be hosting a live televised Seder on Wednesday — just a little bit earlier — and with more audience participation. At 4:30 p.m. local time, viewers can tune in to the network for a Seder geared toward Israel’s elderly, who are the most likely to be observing Passover alone.
The event will be hosted by journalists Dov Elboim and Jacky Levy, and feature appearances from singers Eden Alene — who was supposed to represent Israel at the Eurovision competition this year — and Aya Corem, and Rabbis Benny Lau and Chaim Navon. It will also be livestreamed on the KAN site to viewers around the world, and include a greeting from Rivlin as well.
A KAN spokeswoman told the Forward that they wanted to hold the event earlier in the day so that religious viewers, who don’t watch television on the holiday, could also take part. The show is geared in particular to the elderly, many of whom will be forced to spend the holiday without their children and grandchildren. Via Zoom, KAN will bring hundreds of senior citizens on screen to participate in the virtual Seder, as well as a group of coronavirus patients who are quarantined in the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan.
Israel’s third network TV station, Reshet 13, will also be holding a special Passover-themed talk show broadcast on Wednesday afternoon at 6 p.m., with guests including “Fauda” actress Marina Maximilian, rapper Subliminal, singer Rotem Cohen and chef Israel Aharoni.
Amy Spiro is a digital editor for Jewish Insider based in Jerusalem.
Israeli TV will air Passover Seders for isolated people