Passover Joy Begins Early in Nepal

by B. Olidort - KATHMANDU, NEPAL

March 30, 2006

This tiny mountaintop kingdom has one of the largest Passover Seders in the world, with more than 2,000 guests. But getting the Passover goods onto the table is usually an ordeal with all the elements of a hi-suspense drama and breathless, 11th hour resolution.

This year too, Chabad Rabbi Chezy and Chani Lifschitz waited with bated breath for the container carrying tons of matzah and seder food supplies to arrive. Enroute for a month, the container traveled from Israel to India by ship, and from India to Nepal by land. Last year, the 18-wheeler carrying the cargo overturned, with cases of the precious Passover goods spilling out only days before the holiday. It took several helicopters arranged by Rabbi Lifschitz, to retrieve the cases of food and deliver them in the nick of time. The year before, the container arrived 24 hours before the Seder.

The ongoing clashes between the Nepali army and Maoist rebels fighting to topple the country’s monarchy, makes travel through this terrain dangerous and unpredictable. Last week, rebels closed down roads, delaying the container among numerous other vehicles for more than a week. With information that the Nepali military planned to close down entry to the city by all motor vehicles next week, the anticipation and anxiety levels rose with every hour of further delay. It seemed then quite the Passover miracle that made it possible for the container to make its way in a sliver of time, between rebel blockades and military curfews, to its destination.

Never was unloading a container a more joyous event.

Mountain trekkers aware of the scheduled road closures have adjusted their plans to ensure that they will be in the city for the Seders--by now a "rite of passage" for Israeli backpackers. Current numbers registered for the Seder in Kathmandu suggest a record-breaking Passover this year.

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