Israel Celebrates Mimouna


After sundown on the last day of Passover, holiday dishes go into storage, exchanged for ones fit for year-round use. In some communities, chametz-starved Jews head to the local pizzeria.

In Israel, that night and the following day mean Mimouna.

That’s a holiday with roots in Morocco, observed in north Africa and Turkey, which has come to be embraced by many Israelis, regardless their ethnic or geographic roots.

Mimouna is a day of celebrations, picnics and barbecues, music and speeches.

It marks the country’s unofficial start of spring.

Some Israelis, above, take part in a Mimouna barbecue in a Jerusalem park.

The genesis of Mimouna is unclear. Some say the name comes from Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef, the father of Maimonides who reportedly died at this time of year around 1170. Others say it derives from the Arabic word for wealth or the Hebrew word for faith.

In Libya, members of the Jewish community would make a round loaf of bread with a hardboiled egg in the middle.

In Morocco and Algeria, Jewish families would open their doors to visitors, offering a lavish spread of nuts and fruits and sweet treats; a favorite was mofletta, a type of pancake. Participants are sprinkled with a sprig of mint or other greens dipped in milk, a symbol of good fortune.

Another Moroccan tradition: on the Shabbat after Passover, when the approaching start of the month of Iyar is announced, challah is made in the shape of a key and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The seeds represent the manna that, according to Jewish tradition, began to fall in Iyar after the Exodus. The challah stands for the key to one’s livelihood.