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Death came on the 'holiday of spring'

(CNN) -- The suicide bombing that killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 170 in Israel on Wednesday took place as the victims had gathered for a traditional Seder dinner marking the beginning of the Passover holiday.

Here is some background information on Passover, compiled from the book "The Jewish Holidays: A Guide & Commentary" by Michael Strassfeld.

Passover celebrates the ancient exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. It begins the 15th of the month of Nisan on the Jewish calendar and continues for seven or eight days, depending on the tradition.

The name Passover is taken from biblical book of Exodus, when God struck down the firstborn of Egyptian households but passed over the homes of the Israelites.

That night, Pharaoh finally agreed to let the Israelites go; and ever since then, Jews gather together on that night to commemorate that time and contemplate the meaning of being freed.

As the central theme of Passover is liberation, the holiday also is known in Hebrew as "the season of our liberation." Another name, also translated from Hebrew, is "the holiday of spring," as the Jewish calendar is set so that certain holidays always occur in a particular season of the year.

Passover is also known as "the holiday of unleavened bread," after the matzoh the Israelites made quickly as they prepared to flee Egypt. Bread and other products that contain yeast are not eaten during Passover. Matzoh, a flat bread whose basic ingredients are flour and water, is eaten during this period.

Observance begins at sunset with the Seder, a Hebrew word that literally means "order." The ritual service and meal follow a set routine. The text used is called the Haggadah, which comes from the root of the verb "to tell."

In addition to matzoh, the ritual Seder plate usually includes karpas, a green vegetable such as parsley that symbolizes spring and rebirth; haroset, a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, wine and spices used to symbolize the mortar with which slaves used to make bricks; maror, bitter herbs to symbolize the bitterness of oppression; and beitzah, a roasted egg symbolizing the festival sacrifice of each Jew going up to the temple in Jerusalem.




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