Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Passover

Tonight, millions of Jews (and non-Jews too), will sit around the table and read from the Haggadah, the text that celebrates the Jews' exodus from Egypt, where they were slaves, and their journey back to the land of Israel, which they left many years prior to going to Egypt. For many years, practically from being born and until my late twenties, I have always celebrated Passover with my family in Israel, most often in Jerusalem. I cherish those moments. The Passover Seder was something I always looked forward to when I was a kid. My grandfather, a professor of Islamic Studies at the Hebrew University, led the Seder, and I dare say it was probably the most scholarly food-related event I have ever attended.

The story of the Haggadah is first and foremost a story of liberation, of a disparate people coming together to consciously constitute themselves as a nation. Thus, the first month of the Hebrew Calendar, Nisan, begins, symbolically, when the Jews are liberated by God and come together, in an act of self-determination, to form a nation.

Though the story of the Haggadah is a personal one, belonging historically only to the Jewish people, its message of freedom is universal. How ironic is it, then, that the modern country of Israel, the country that has endured so many hardships in constituting itself as a nation after 2,000 years of exile, has been engaged in a forty year occupation of another people, desperate for their own independence and sovereignty.

At the end of every Passover Seder, we recite from the Haggadah and exclaim: "Next year in built Jerusalem." By saying this we express the ancient desire to return to Jerusalem and to see it rebuilt. This year, however, I will be departing from tradition. Though I would like to see Jerusalem built, I would like for it to be built by and for two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians alike. With the recent pressure by the Obama administration, that day may be coming closer, though I am, as ever, deeply pessimistic. Yet Passover is also the day where we ask "what makes this night different from every other night." So tonight I will allow myself to be a little hopeful and optimistic. May the coming year see freedom and dignity for both peoples, and may they build Jerusalem together.


  1. A beautiful reflection Adam. There are so many reasons to succumb to despair, not only in the Middle East but also elsewhere and yet stories like the Exodus always remind us that there is something worth hoping and waiting for. For as long as there are people on both sides of the conflict willing to work for peace, it is not an impossible feat.

    Chag Sameach!


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