Jews around the world say “Next year in Jerusalem!” at the end of the Passover seder. I know because, while I’m not Jewish, I’ve joined Mr. Em in Jerusalem’s family seders pretty much since I’ve known him (and we even co-hosted a particularly interesting one at our hotelpartment in Yemen). I’ve now spent two Passovers in Jerusalem, and both times we’ve let the holiday go by unmarked. No seders. We haven’t been invited to one, and because I’m an atheist and my husband isn’t particularly religious, we’d feel weird hosting our own, even though we’ve toyed with the idea. I do enjoy getting everyone around the table to drink wine and tell a story and have conversation, but who am I to co-host a religious dinner amid a million religious Jews who actually know what they’re doing?
Easter is a religious holiday that I’m much more versed in celebrating a non-religious version of. Growing up, I swirled eggs in bowls of vinegary techo-colored dye, searched for chocolate-filled Easter baskets, and ate a big ham and green beans and rolls like the rest of the Midwest. I even hosted my share of Easter brunches in Washington DC. Once, a foreign friend friend asked me, the host, to tell the Easter story and I deferred to two Catholic friends who knew the Biblical origins like the back of their hands. You may not say “next year in Jerusalem” on Easter, but if you believe in the Bible, then you can’t get much closer to the spot where it all happened than Jerusalem. Most Christians believe Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem’s Old City, just a few miles away from our apartment. We tried to get tickets to a crazy experience called “The Holy Fire” which takes place the day before Easter. A flame is lit from Jesus’ tomb (actually the marble slab where his body is believed to have been placed for burial) in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and that flame travels via various drippy wicks throughout the church and into the Old City and onto planes back to Orthodox communities in Greece and Russia. We didn’t get a spot inside the church, but we had an interesting experience led by the Arab Orthodox Society that ended with us up on the roof of the Holy Sepulchre, witnessing lots of singing and dancing and swashbuckling prior to the flame making it’s way up the stairs to us.
And on Easter Sunday, we ate a big delicious brunch at the American Colony (a gorgeous Christian-owned hotel in Jerusalem with a very interesting backstory).
To holidays in Jerusalem,
Em in Jerusalem