By Rivka Perlman

April 2, 2015

Passover in Africa


It was early in the morning a couple of months go when my husband got the text. “Great deals to South Africa.” It wasn’t unusual for him to get a text like that bc he’s signed up to Dan’s Deals. Dan is a guy who hunts for amazing deals and then sends them out to anyone on his list free of charge. What was unusual was how cheap the tickets were and the fact that they were available over Passover!

In the Airport
In the Airport

Meanwhile, out in NY, Bezalel’s brothers received the same text. Within minutes there was a flurry of phone calls and crazy dreams turned into plans. We calculated that with these crazy cheap tickets it would be the same cost as making Pesach at home. Not only that but we’d get t be with family! We were going to South Africa. Not only us, but almost all my brothers in laws and sister in laws and their families too! We would all be going to visit Chev and Paul, our sister and brother out in SA.

My nephew Yosef  - the international traveler!
My nephew Yosef – the international traveler!

The timing couldn’t have been better. In the early years we would all get together at my mother in laws house where she would host 20 or more of us for the whole week of Pesach. It was delightful insanity; kids, matzha, singing into the night…. Later on, we were the hosts and the entire entourage moved in with us.

More recently though, as the kids grow up, families have started wanting to have their own Seder. Everyone loves being with family but there is something to having a father at the head of the table leading his children in his traditions. And there’s something about going from being a guest to owning the experience by being a host. Things were beginning to change.

So to have this chance to recapture that togetherness was amazing. My son installed a counter on my phone and every day it told me how many days left until our trip. And now, after weeks of planning, we are here!


The flight that was available traveled through Abu Dhabui in the United Arab Emirates. We traveled on Etihad airlines. The flight started out with a Traveler’s Prayer which we thought was pretty cool because we also say one when we go on a trip. This may sound silly but one thing we couldn’t get over was the Stewardess’s outfits! My girls and I are always on the lookout for beautiful modest clothing and these uniforms were gorgeous! We had a stopover in Abu Dhabi for 14 hours and there was a hotel right there in the airport so we never left the building.

In the hotel - note the portraits behind us
In the hotel – note the portraits behind us


Being there left me with a multitude of impressions. The burka’s were scary. Seeing only a woman’s eyes and nothing else makes for true invisibility. The black material swishing around them added a sense of black mystery. On the other hand it felt good to be in place that understood the importance of prayer and dietary needs. As Jews ( and a big group at that) we were pretty conspicuous with my tichel and the boy’s yarmulkas and we got a lot of stares but nothing too outrageous. Of course, my sister in law with an Israeli passport wouldn’t even be allowed into the country ( they don’t recognize that document.) So she found a place to sleep with her family that was in the airport before the Passport control.

On the bus in the United Arab Emirates
On the bus in the United Arab Emirates

As we exited the airport we found ourselves in an empty corridor and the guys started singing Pesach songs.Loaded up with our luggage and kids in tow, ( matzah and paper goods for 38 ppl a meal!) it definitely felt like an Exodus! The song is from the Hagada that we read at the Seder; it goes “THIS is what has stood ( held strong) for us and our forefathers, that so many tried to destroy but The Holy One saved us from their hands.”

Rivka Malka

THIS means so much. It means, this Torah, these traditions. It means this faith and hope no mater what. And it also means THIS; this family, these ties that we hold so dear, this devotion to each other no matter how busy life gets, no matter how different we all are, THIS has kept us strong and has stood the test of time.

We got up early this morning, jet lagged and happy on the other side of the world. I have limited internet here but I’ll try and post pics and keep you in the loop as we eat matzah in Africa and play with lions on the Safari.

Rivka Malka


PS If you liked that song – you can hear the whole thing here.

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