(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
On Pessah eve, an empty chair - that traditional Jewish symbol of loss and longing - should be set aside not just for Elijah the Prophet, but also for the three abducted IDF soldiers, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said on Sunday.
"The empty chair will represent the entire Jewish people's yearning to see our boys brought home," he said. "Pessah commemorates the redemption of the entire Jewish people. But it also celebrates the redemption of each and every one of us."
On July 12 Hizbullah gunmen kidnapped reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, sparking the Second Lebanon War. The kidnapping followed the June 25 abduction of Cpl. Gilad Schalit by terrorists from the Gaza Strip.
Metzger made the announcement during the sale at the Chief Rabbinate's headquarters in Jerusalem to a non-Jew of all hametz - leavened wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt - owned by the state.
Jewish law forbids possession of hametz for about seven days starting at about 10 a.m. on Monday morning. Individuals and companies that own large quantities of hametz sell it to non-Jews.
Abu Ghosh resident Hussein Gaber bought all of the hametz owned by the State of Israel, which has an estimated value of $150 billion, for a down payment of NIS 20,000.
Gaber, who describes himself as a religious Muslim, has been buying the state's hametz for 13 years. He told The Jerusalem Post that in theory he could take possession of all of Israel's hametz, which includes whiskey, beer and other grain alcohols forbidden to Muslims.
"But I don't plan to," he said.
Gaber, 42, a manager at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem, said he was enlisted as official hametz buyer by then-Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau during one of Lau's visits to the hotel.
The previous buyer of the nation's hametz, also an Abu Ghosh resident, was fired after it was discovered that his grandmother was Jewish.
Gaber said that he was proud to buy the state's hametz.
"It is an example of peaceful coexistence and brotherhood," he said Gaber.