Israel Prepares for Passover Festival

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Monday night marks the beginning of the Passover, which to the Jewish people commemorates the biblical story of the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt after hundreds of years of slavery.

The story recounts how God killed the first-born male children of Egypt after the pharaoh refused to release the children of Israel from bondage. But He "passed over" the houses of the Israelites.

It was the last of the ten plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians in order to make pharaoh allow the Hebrews to leave.

After the death of the firstborn of the land, the Bible says pharaoh gave in to Moses' demands and let the Israelites go. They were then given the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai and wandered in the desert for 40 years before arriving in the land of Israel.

Throughout Israel, many families were making last-minute preparations for the traditional Seder meal. Families gather together and tell the story of the exodus and eat unleavened bread known as Matzoh.

The tradition of eating matzoh comes from the Bible's account that the Jews left Egypt in such a hurry that there was no time to allow the bread to rise.

It is also considered the bread of the poor, meant to remind Jews of their ancestors' hardships. Leavened bread is banned and burned ceremonially before the holiday starts.

Israel imposed a closure on the West Bank, barring almost all Palestinians from entering Israel throughout the holiday. In 2002, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at a hotel during the Seder celebration, killing 30 people.

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