ֿIf a competition for “most original Seder during lockdown” had been announced in Israel, Iros HaNegev Street in the Neveh Noy neighborhood of Beer Sheva would have won first place. Who else does a Seder in the street?
“The idea was my husband Andrei’s,” says Carmela Uzan (age 60+), organizer of the event. “It stemmed from his frustration. For his whole life, he’s done really big Seders with the extended family, and now it’s just the two of us – it hits you. But we understood that we are not alone. There are a lot of older isolated couples here, whose children didn’t come this year. So the idea came up to do it together.”
A small street. Private homes. In routine times, everyone kept to themselves. But in the times of corona, a new kind of community was born.
“Even in the start of the days of corona,” Uzan tells us, “I started a Whatsapp group. I called it ‘Neighbors of a Supporting Community.’ People responded with excitement, and the group expanded and expanded. Everyone here is independent, but sometimes you need to know that someone is there for you, even if you won’t use it. People were alone, and all of a sudden, they weren’t alone.It’s a wonderful feeling. Our motto for the Seder was, 'Each family separate, the whole neighborhood together' and it caught on like wildfire. One neighbor after the next, everyone wanted to join in.”
The result was an unusual Seder that managed to uphold not only the holiday’s customs, but also the instructions of the Ministry of Health to stay within 100 meters of home.
“In the beginning, we wanted to do it on the street,” Uzan replays the scene, “but then we realized that it may be a bit cumbersome, since there are some neighbors who are returning from work at the factories. So we announced to all the neighbors that we would do the Seder on the sidewalk on the odd-numbered side of the street. We moved the small trash cans to the other side of the streets, and the cars parked half on the sidewalk to give us more space. We made sure to have a very powerful sound system. We have one neighbor who organizes a Seder every year in a hotel in Mitzpeh Ramon. This year he didn’t have that, he had us.”
“We also asked that the neighbors turn on the lights in their homes and yards,” Uzan continues. “And we already hung up flags, even though it isn’t Independence Day yet. We did all this to create a feeling of connection not just between us, but also between us and the nation and homeland.”
How did the neighbors respond?
“Everyone cooperated, brought out their tables with the Seder plate, wine and flowers, a bowl for handwashing and Haggadot,” Uzan says. “Two families sat on every lot, at a safe distance from each other.”
And how was the Seder itself run?
“Until the ‘Shulchan Aruch’ it was a Seder according to the traditions. We did kiddush together and ‘Ha Lachma Anya.’ Afterwards, we had planned to go inside our houses to eat, but it was hard to go back inside, so we continued to sing ‘Chad Gadya’ and ‘Echad Mi Yodea’ together, which is at the end of the Haggadah. But we couldn’t hold back because we wanted to stay together. We have a neighbor who plays the mandolin, so he led us. It was just fun. A truly unique evening. People could not come down from the excitement. Everyone was excited. Now we want to do Mimouna and Independence Day together as well.”