In just a few days, the Jewish world will read the following words from the Haggadah: “For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand.”
Last weekend, southern Israel was struck by more than one hundred missiles from Gaza in just one night, and the Israeli army responded by bombing Gaza. By mid week, Israel and the Palestinians reached an unwritten agreement for a state of calm. Israel agreed to stop strikes in Gaza in exchange for a halt in rocket fire. Exactly ten years ago, on April 16, 2001, the first documented Kassam rocket was launched at Israeli targets. Since then, almost eight thousand rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel.
In a small guest house in Kibbutz Moran in northern Israel, tens of orphans who lost both their parents in terror acts over the last decade will sit around one long Seder table. These bereaved sons and daughters will try to celebrate the holiday and overcome their endless pain together. These individuals, once strangers to one another, are now united by grief and hope in the power of life.
Our enemies might not be familiar with the quote from the Haggadah, but they certainly follow it.
As we celebrate the first Seder, the Jewish world should also commemorate Jewish heroism. The 14th of Nisan, the first night of Passover, is also the date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Jewish resistance, made up of young socialists, communists, and Zionists, arose to oppose the Nazis’ efforts to transport the ghetto population to the Treblinka extermination camp. Although poorly armed, the young fighters held out for almost a month before being crushed by the German troops. Mordechai Anielewicz, the 24-year-old commander of the uprising, took poison to avoid being captured, along with several of his comrades.
Pesach is also known as Chag H’cherut, the Holiday of Freedom. The Exodus from Egypt to become a free people was a liberating act physically, spiritually, and emotionally. That free spirit led dreamers to establish the State of Israel 63 years ago, but our complete freedom will be reached only when we can sit around the Seder table knowing that no child in southern Israel is at risk of bombardment, and Gilad Shalit is celebrating the Holiday of Freedom at his parents’ home as a free man.
Happy Pesach and Shabbat shalom
Leah Garber, director
JCC Association Israel office, Jerusalem