Jerusalemites will spend next week drinking, washing and flushing their toilets with Kosher le’Pesach water.
Why? Because a week before the holiday, the Israeli national water company, Mekorot, disconnected Jerusalem from the national pipeline that pumps water all the way from the Kinneret lake down to the Negev.
Throughout the Pesach week, households will have to rely on water drawn by the municipal water company, Hagihon, from local reservoirs and wells.
This annual tradition stems from the concerns of strictly Orthodox Jews that the bread thrown in to the lake by fishermen on the Kinneret and the remains of shore-side picnics might cause traces of chametz to reach their drinking water.
No senior rabbi has ever decreed that a Jew may not use tap-water over Pesach, probably because the water is repeatedly filtered on its way through the system.
But the crumbs in the Kinneret are enough for Charedim who take their chametz seriously to stockpile gallons of water drawn from wells and waterholes for the duration of the week. Others simply make do with drinking bottled water. Since Jerusalem has an alternative water source — and, of course, a powerful Charedi presence in City Hall — every year for the past two decades the water from the National Water Carrier is shut off a week in advance.
This allows the Kosher le’Pesach water to wash away any remaining traces of chametz in the pipeline and to indulge the strictly Orthodox community’s most stringent demands.
Some Charedim from other parts of the country, such as Bnei Brak, where such an arrangement is impossible, spend their Pesach in Jerusalem solely for this reason.