How many empty chairs for Passover seder this year?

Passover 2024 or Pesach 5784, will be different from last year on the Jerusalem streets.

The Chag Aviv, or the Holiday of Spring, can be seen in nature as the bees have returned.

As usual, baskets for unopened bread products can be found on the Jerusalem streets,

plus special bins to burn the bits of bread and crumbs on Monday morning before the holiday begins.

However, this year there will be thousands of empty seats at the Seder table on Monday night.

National Library of Israel entrance with faces of the murdered

The faces of the 1,200 murdered in the October 7 Massacre were illuminated in the new National Library.

At Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence a ceremonial presentation of certificates was held.

The families of the three young Israelis who escaped from their Hamas captivity in Gaza, only to be shot by friendly fire were acknowledged.

Iris Haim mother of Yotam Haim, posed and smiled for a photo. There were more than the usual amount of hugs and tears that day. I refrained from photographing the most powerful scenes.

The next day back at Beit Hanasi, 30 nurses were honored in advance of International Nurses Day. Even though the audience was asked not to photograph, phone cameras were used repeatedly by family members and friends. Each nurse was called up by name and her story was briefly recounted. One was the nurse in Beeri on October 7. One had been taken captive to Gaza on October 7. The hospitals mentioned were from the north to the south of Israel.

One of the nurses was Talya Slotki, the Nursing Coordinator in the Pain Clinic at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel, who was awarded an Honorable Distinction for Bravery and Heroism.

Her husband, Rabbi Shmuel Slotki shared their story with our solidarity mission at the beginning of January along with a video of his sons and family.

On the morning of October 7th, their two sons, Noam and Yishai, left their home when the attack began and traveled south to join in the brave defense of the besieged communities along the border. Both sons fought heroically before falling in battle.

For the next week, their exact whereabouts and fate were unknown, before the family was informed that both sons had been killed.

Following the completion of the shiva, Talya continued to work to provide critical medical care in addressing and alleviating pain. Among many of her patients have been soldiers evacuated from the fields of battle who were treated for a wide range of injuries – many included painful orthopedic wounds and burns that have required intensive attention and care.

As I read about the commendation that Talya Slotki received, I remembered when Rabbi Slotki entered the room to speak to our group. Rabbi Doron Perez left his spot at the front of the room and went to hug him.

At 97 days from October 7, Rabbi Perez and supporters completed a Torah in the merit of the return of the members of the Perez tank crew missing since the day Hamas started the war by invading Israel.

A month ago the Perez family had a funeral to bury a bloody shirt after a video was found showing that the young soldier who held off the invasion was not only injured but killed. He was no longer counted among the 133 hostages still possibly alive in Gaza.

As we approach 200 days from the Shabbat Simhat Torah massacre and anticipate Passover the remaining hostage’s fates are unknown.

Table set for Passover meal

Passover tables are being prepared for the seder meal and retelling of the story of freedom from Egypt. The freedom of Israeli hostages and the many empty chairs at the seder are very much in mind.

In addition, the tens of thousands from north and south are still under constant rocket fire and unable to be home for all these months, as well as the soldiers on duty to protect against further attacks.

But to end on a brighter note, the colorful spring flowers are as usual lining the Jerusalem streets.

Now it’s time to finish preparing for Passover.

Hebrew sign Happy Passover, bus sign in Hewbrew

Passover Kosher and Happy

Remember, the Hagaddah ends with “Next year in Jerusalem!” Let’s hope we can all celebrate once again joyfully on the Jerusalem streets!