We learned the other day that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich would be rappelling down rocks in the Negev next week, as part of his family’s and friends’ celebration of Pesach in Israel.
Well, today Russian wire service Interfax reports that a whole army of Russian oligarchs will also be descending on the Israeli desert for Pesach, starting today, in a symbolic re-enaction of the Exodus.
Interfax reports that an important group of leading Russian businessmen, put together by the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC), will carry out a pilgrimage on foot across the Israeli desert from today until the Seder evening itself on Monday night. The RJCpress secretary, yes they have a press secretary, Mikhail Savin told the wire service ”This march is timed for the important Jewish feast of Passover”
A number of the pilgrims are current members of the RJC board of Directors, including Mikhail Fridman who is head of the Alpha-Group; Mikhail Mirilashvili, the former owner of social media group Vkontakte; Boris Mints who is Chairman of the Board of O1 Group; Yury Kanner who is President of the RJC itself and a number of major donors to some of the RJC’s ongoing charity projects. Some of these gentlemen are serious billionaires.
Altogether the group consists of the symbolically significant number of 18 people. It is also the third occasion the RJC has organized such a Pesach pilgrimage for its members.
This year, in 2014, the main theme of their Pesach pilgrimage will be the conveying of Jewish tradition from parents to children that the Seder celebration represents.
The march will finish in Jerusalem on erev Pesach with a traditional Passover seder where children of Mikhail Fridman, Boris Mints and Yury Zelvensky, who has also taken part in the project for a long time, will all participate as well.
Mints’ son Alexander will go on the full four-day march. The pilgrims plan to walk several dozen kilometers across the Arava Desert in southern Israel. They will go entirely on foot heading in the general direction of Jerusalem.
At one level the march they are taking has its roots in the old Jewish tradition of pilgrimage to the ancient Temple at Pesach. It also of course symbolizes the Jewish Exodus from Egypt.
These senior leaders of the Russian business elite will experience not only the hardships of an exhausting journey, but they will also have to do without Internet, without mobile connections and all the other usual blessings of civilization, which we, and they, take for granted the rest of the year.
In order to look the part, the VIP-pilgrims will be dressed as ancient Jews in white linen tunics and sandals, they will eat traditional Kosher food and spend the nights sleeping under the stars in tents.
Supplies of water, food and tents will be carried on camels specially rented for the occasion (supplied by an e-commerce company Rent-A-Camel, perhaps?). The participants will celebrate Shabbat during the march, and on the last day, April 14th, will cook Kosher matzoth for Pesach themselves. The pilgrims will finally celebrate the Passover seder near the walls of the Old city in Jerusalem hall David’s Pipe.