In 2022, Jews in Israel and around the world will celebrate Passover from the evening of April 15. Passover is the seven-day feast of Unleavened Bread Festival, commemorating the escape of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. The ancient Hebrews may have freed themselves, but today’s Hebrews remain enslaved like no other – chained to military occupation, a society based on militarism, hatred, denial and, by Above all, a deep sense of superiority that translates into racism in its rawest form.
I reach out to help this damaged community break free once and for all.
As I learn, the Passover feast begins with the Seder, a traditional ceremonial meal. Its centerpiece is a special Seder plate containing six symbolic foods, each with special significance in telling the story of the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt. The stack of three matzos, or unleavened bread, a kind of cracker made from white flour and water, has its separate plate on the Seder table.
For each of the six traditional elements of the Seder plate—listed here by its Hebrew name—I note its traditional symbolic role and offer an additional alternative interpretation. I hope my alternative can help Jews around the world, and especially in Israel, to connect with a broader perspective on the meaning of Passover here, right now, in the land considered by many to be the end point. of this ancient exodus.
maror — The bitter herbs symbolize the bitterness and harshness of the slavery the Jews endured in Egypt.
Slavery: severe restriction of freedom. Today, the Israeli boot of dispossession and military occupation weighs harder than ever on the neck of an entire people. Particularly gruesome, two million Palestinians in Gaza continue to taste the bitterness of denied freedom, hermetically sealed in their encircled enclave with no end in sight. More than forty-seven percent are under the age of 18. The Jewish citizens of Israel have hardened their hearts to this reality, and they expect the rest of the world to do the same. How long will you wait for the Palestinians to disappear?
charoset — Coarse mixture of chopped nuts, apples or dates and wine, intended to symbolize the mortar used by Jewish slaves to build the warehouses of Egypt.
Today, Israel severely restricts the entry of mortar, cement or any other construction material into Gaza. Let them sleep in tents! This, after multiple assaults on Gaza, internationally documented war crimes (and possibly crimes against humanity), causing thousands of deaths – leaving dozens homeless in the rubble and another generation of Palestinians. injured for life. Is this the freedom envisaged by Moses? The freedom of the “Jewish” state to suffocate an entire people, in Gaza, in Jerusalem, in the West Bank and in the refugee camps throughout the region? Push a whole generation over the cliff of despair? Doesn’t sound very Jewish to me. Not at all.
Karpa — A vegetable other than bitter herbs, dipped in salt water (representing tears) to recall the pain felt by Jewish slaves in Egypt.
Tears! Pain! In your name, my Jewish friends, Israel renews its slaughter throughout the West Bank as it continues its inhumane siege on Gaza. We Palestinians have shed tears as salty as anyone; our pain is indescribable, especially for those in Gaza. Two out of three residents of Gaza today initially lost their homes in what is now Israel when the state was established. Seven decades later, they find themselves living a nightmare, a kind of living death: their economy in ruins, their neighborhoods in ruins, their education and health systems in ruins, even their sanitation systems in ruins. Israel refuses to allow reconstruction. No 18-year-old in Gaza today has ever, ever lived with 24/7 electricity. What happens after stripping Gazans – or, for that matter, any part of the fragmented Palestinian community – of their last sense of sanity?
Z’roa — A roast lamb shank (or a chicken wing, or a chicken neck) symbolizes the paschal sacrifice originally offered on the eve of the Exodus and later at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Sacrifice! Do you insist on sacrificing the possibility of a sustainable future for modern Israel in the name of its founding myth – since discredited – that Palestine was “a land without a people, for a people without a land”? The majority of Gazans today come from families that Israel expelled. Gazans remained steadfast under conditions that even early Hebrews might have found intolerable in Egypt. Gazans, along with all Palestinians, are the people with whom the Jews of Israel are destined to live, today, tomorrow and forever. The only uncertainty is how much more hatred will be generated by military occupation and armed aggression before a process of shared rehabilitation can begin.
Beitzah — A hard-boiled egg, symbolizing the main festive sacrifice that was offered in the Temple of Jerusalem. The egg is a symbol of mourning. Eggs are the first thing served to mourners after a Jewish funeral. The egg on the Seder plate evokes the mourning caused by the destruction of the Temple and the subsequent impossibility of offering sacrifices there in honor of the Passover holiday.
Mourning! As Jews, you know a lot about grief. Consider the more than seven decades of mourning, consider each day of each of those years, among people – real people, with real names and real children – in the West Bank, Gaza and in squalid refugee camps all around ‘Israel (and some still in Israel) who can see their homeland with the naked eye, but are denied their basic human right to return home. Seventy-four Passover and counting. All I ask of you on this holy day of this year, as you contemplate the egg on the Seder plate, is to remember it.
Seeing is believing
My Jewish brothers and sisters, you can continue to look the other way as Israel claims to speak and act on your behalf. He kills and maims in your name. It dispossesses and occupies in your name. He builds settlements on your behalf. He demolishes houses on your behalf. He uproots trees on your behalf. He speaks of peace and makes war in your name. If you turn a deaf ear to their grief again this year, if you harden your heart again this year, if your voice does not rise in protest this year, then you consent to the ongoing ethnic cleansing of another people, in your name. If you can’t see the Palestinians as fully human now, you will hear them trying to give voice to their humanity in your nightmares, year after year, until you can see and until you can hear.
Many are on your side, showing you the way out. Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council (3-2022), Addameer and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic (2-2022), Amnesty International (2-2022), Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (11-2021), Human Rights Watch (7–2021), B’Tselem (1–2021), Yesh Din (7–2020) and Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (by Jimmy Carter) (7–2007 ), to name a few. They all shed light on what needs to be fixed, and soon.
Others have noted that We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are. You, collectively, are not the military occupation and apartheid, no matter how much indoctrination informs you to think otherwise.
I urge you, as you commemorate the ancient slavery and deliverance of the Hebrews, to finally see yourselves as equals in this world: equal with your neighbors, neither their masters nor their slaves. I urge you to see yourselves and your children like every Palestinian mother, father and child in Sheikh Jarrah, Gaza, Sabra and Shatila. May this year be the year of your shared redemption!
Nevertheless, Happy Easter from Palestine!
A version of this article first appeared on Sam Bahour’s Medium blog on April 15, 2022.
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