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Under Passover lockdown, thousands take to balconies to sing ‘Ma Nishtana’

Israel implemented strict lockdown measures on both the first and last night of the Passover holiday with a curfew and a ban on travel within their residents within their own communities in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

However, that didn’t stop tens of thousands of Israelis from taking to their balconies to sing together as one nation on the first night of the holiday.

The lyrics of one of the tradition songs of the seder meal echoed throughout the country with the poignant lyrics for this time: “Ma nishtana halila hazeh mi kol halilot? (Why is this night different from every other night?)” The words are meant to contrast Passover to the other nights of the year, but this year, the words take on a obvious meaning. What is different? The world is on lockdown because of a pandemic! A plague, not unlike what was seen in Egypt, thousands of years ago.

The song is traditionally sung by the youngest member of the household. The act of solidarity was comforting for people who had to spend the holiday alone, including the elderly unable to celebrate with their children and grandchildren because of current restrictions and other people who live alone.

While people sang, some flicked their apartment lights on and off and cheered, clapped and shouted Hag Sameah, happy holidays to their neighbors.

Some families and even several Messianic congregations met up through Zoom calls and FaceTime to connect during the meal

“It’s difficult to keep the spirits up when we are apart from our children and grandchildren, but tradition must continue,” TV presenter Haim Hecht said on Channel 12, which aired a live studio seder where the participants read from the Haggadah and sang the traditional songs.

A second curfew began at 5 p.m. on Tuesday evening, the last night of the holiday, and lasted until Thursday morning. All businesses were closed during that time.

Jerusalem, which is normally brimming with Christian tourists during the Easter holiday, was empty and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where some Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected, was closed for the first time on Easter in at least a century, Palestinian historian Johnny Mansour said.

Israel has adopted strict but effective measures against the coronavirus outbreak. As of Thursday morning, 131 people have died and more than 12,000 have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The country is beginning to talk about life after lockdown and how to slowly bring back sectors of the economy.

In the meantime, with most people observing the rules and staying in their homes or within 100 meters of it, wildlife has taken to the empty streets. Jackals, who are normally in the outskirts of the city, have ventured into HaYarkon Park in the heart of Tel Aviv looking for food. In Eilat, ibex were photographed in the deserted streets of the resort city.

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