Over 1,000 Jewish travelers breathed a sigh of relief when, after having been stuck for weeks in an Indian port due to a strike by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, a container of supplies needed by Chabad of Nepal to conduct the world’s largest Seder arrived just hours before the onset of Yomtov.
This was the year of the volunteer when it came to Passover in Nepal.
Due to a strike by the Israeli Foreign Ministry last month, a container of Passover supplies for use at the seders—addressed to the Israeli embassy in Nepal and needed to be signed for by an official presence there—got stuck in port in Kolkata, India. Although the strike ended on April 3 and the container—filled with matzah, wine, Haggadahs and other supplies—was released, most guessed that it would never make it to Kathmandu on time.
Yet Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz, co-director of the Chabad House of Kathmandu and the Chabad House of Pokhara with his wife, Chani—was resolute that the seders would go on as planned. He noted that travelers to the country had started lugging Passover items in their backpacks and suitcases to help out, and he talked about making grape juice from scratch, if need be.
In the last few weeks, hundreds of kilos of matzah and Haggadahs have arrived with scores of tourists.
Normally, volunteers assist anyway, though this year proved remarkable in the efforts to make up for the languishing shipment. “You can come one week before the seder, and you can see hundreds of Jewish people singing and cutting vegetables,” Chani Lifshitz has said in the past. “We have a carrot team and a cucumber team; it’s really nice to see.”
The Lifshitzes, with the help of rabbinical students sent by Chabad-LubavitchWorld Headquarters, organize four seders annually for thousands of Israeli backpackers who venture to Nepal, many of them young men who have completed their obligatory military service. The biggest is held in the capital of Kathmandu, where some 1,000 to 1,500 Jews come together to celebrate the holiday; there is another English-language seder, as well as two large ones in the cities of Pokhara and Manang.
On Monday, the container arrived. It included 1 ton of matzah, 2,000 bottles of wine, 3,000 pieces of gefilte fish and other traditional Jewish foods. Local volunteers from all over the world helped unload the container and bring the kosher-for-Passover items to the Chabad House.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, said “we’re pleased that the provisions arrived in time for Pesach and everything came together in time for thesedarim.”
This year, according to the rabbi, the table was set for more than 1,000 visitors at an upscale hotel in Kathmandu.
The first seder already began, with the story of the Exodus being told to all those present, amid enough food for everyone.