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Israel places police on high alert for Passover festival

Israel Materials 29 March 2010 13:17 (UTC +04:00)
Israel its police forces on high alert Monday, ahead of the week-long Passover festival which begins at sundown
Israel places police on high alert for Passover festival

Israel its police forces on high alert Monday, ahead of the week-long Passover festival which begins at sundown, DPA reported.

Police, fearing disturbances from both Muslim and Jewish extremists, also restricted access to the flashpoint Temple Mount/ Noble Sanctuary compound in Jerusalem's Old City, liming entrance to Muslim men aged 50 and above and holding Israeli identification cards, and to women of all ages.

The compound is holy to both religions. Muslims believe it marks the spot from where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, while for Jews it is built on the ruins of their biblical temples.

Israel also slapped a closure on the West Bank, to last for the duration of Passover, although Christians will be able to leave to attend Easter festivities.

The closure is in keeping with the Israeli practice of sealing off the occupied territories ahead of Jewish festivals, for fear militants will try launch attacks to disrupt the festivities, as occurred on March 27, 2002, when a Hamas suicide bomber killed 30 people, and injured 140 more, when he blew himself up in an Israeli hotel at the beginning of the traditional Passover feast.

The seven-day Passover festival (eight days outside of Israel) commemorates the Biblical Exodus from Egypt.

Jews traditionally usher in the holiday with a special festive meal, reading from the Haggadah, a collection of texts recounting the Exodus and laying out the ritual for the meal.

The meal itself includes special food with a symbolic significance, such as a vegetable, usually parsley, dipped into salt water to symbolize tears shed as a result of the Jews' slavery in Biblical Egypt, bitter herbs to symbolize the bitterness of slavery, and a special paste made of fruit and nuts, the colour and texture of which is to remind Jews of the mortar the ancient Israelis used to bond bricks when they were slaves in Egypt.

Jews are also forbidden from eating bread products during the entire festival, and have to make do with matzo, unleavened flat bread which does not rise during baking.

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