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Readings to deepen your Passover
Please read this and bring these ideas and readings to whatever celebration you attend during Passover!!!
Next Year in Jerusalem? Passover for those whose moral compass has not gone dead
We offer a series of articles here that may help you negotiate through the Passover holiday and the ethical morass facing those who wish to celebrate the holiday of our freedom from slavery without going dead to the reality of the Jewish people's role in the suffering of the Palestinian people, today, right now, as we celebrate this year's Passover!!!!!!!!!
One of my favorite childhood memories of the Passover seder is joyously singing, “L’shana Haba’ah Birushalayim Habnuyah/ Next Year in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem” at the end of the seder. I remember singing L’shana Haba’ah at the end of our family seders and at the end of the huge “model” seder at Herzlia, the Jewish day school that I attended as a child in South Africa. Next Year in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem! Tomorrow night my family will celebrate Pesach seder in the city of Jerusalem, a beautiful city that I love, and currently, a painfully divided city.
For me, there are two realities to preparing for this year’s seder in Jerusalem. The first reality is the uniqueness of preparing for Passover in Israel where the holiday is part of the national culture. Celebrating Jewish holidays in the diaspora is so different from here in Israel where Jewish holidays and culture are the norm. The supermarkets are packed, there are “Pesach specials”, there is a festive holiday air, the coffee shops are packed and everyone is talking about the holiday. All my neighbors are preparing for Pesach.
Today I went with my neighbors to one of the street corners near us where someone had set up a huge vat of boiling water where one could bring one’s pots, cutlery and other utensils to make them kosher for Pesach. We spent much of our day shopping and getting what we need for our seder. Later, our whole family went to get haircuts, as there is a Jewish tradition not to cut one’s hair for several weeks starting on Pesach. The barber told us that he started work this morning at 8 a.m. and his last appointment is at 10 p.m. tonight.
And, there is another reality. Next year in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem! Building in Jerusalem is in the news. In response to the recent controversy about building in Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, defiantly declared, “We will continue to build houses in East and West Jerusalem!” What he meant is “we (Jews)” will build houses for Jews in East and West Jerusalem. The Municipality of Jerusalem doesn’t build houses for Palestinians. As regards Palestinians, it demolishes houses and assists in the eviction of Palestinians from their houses and replacing them with Jews.
After many years of shamefully turning a blind eye to this immoral system of discrimination, the American administration has finally demanded that it end. In a moving piece in this morning’s Ha’Aretz Gideon Levy writes,
If Israel had a real peace camp, if the silent majority had broken its sickly silence, if more Israelis approached the situation as a collective rather than individuals yearning for the next holiday or car, if more Israelis refused to accept blindly the deceptions of Israeli diplomacy and propaganda, Rabin Square would have been filled with demonstrators yesterday. Among the banners and flags, one sign would have stood out in this hour of risks and fateful decisions: “Thank you, friend.” Thank you, Barack Obama, friend of Israel.
Among Obama’s modest demands – a construction freeze in Jerusalem and extending the freeze in the settlements, two basic conditions for “negotiations without preconditions” and for anyone who really wants a two-state solution – there’s a demand that the Israelis themselves should have made long ago.
Obama is asking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and through him every Israeli, to finally speak the truth. He’s asking Netanyahu and the rest of us: What on earth do you actually want? Enough with the misleading answers; the moment of truth is here. Enough with the tricks – a neighborhood here, a settlement expansion there. Just tell us: Where are you heading? Do you want to go on receiving unprecedented aid from the United States, do you want to become part of the Middle East, do you want to achieve peace?
I couldn’t agree more. The question now is whether Obama will continue to insist on the modest demands he has made of the Israelis. Will the AIPAC letter signed by over 300 congressional representatives pressure him to mute his reasonable demand? I hope not.
So, tomorrow night, when we come to Next Year in Jerusalem, let’s give thanks to Obama and encourage the American Administration to insist in the strongest terms possible to his reasonable demands.
For Jerusalem to be a holy city it must be one where all its inhabitants are treated with dignity and equality. It is not the ancient graves and sites that will make this city holy. Obama has the power to change the destructive and suicidal path of Israeli policy in Jerusalem. He deserves our full support as long as he continues to insist that the Israeli government agree to his modest demands.
This year Jerusalem is divided and in a city torn in conflict, hatred and violence. Next year in Jerusalem, a city of peace, a city of human dignity and equality, a city that honors all the children of God.
This year we are slaves, next year may we all be free!
Jerusalem, settlements, and the "everybody knows" fallacy
Posted By Lara Friedman and Daniel Seidemann Friday, March 19, 2010 - 11:43 AM Share
Throughout the past week the world has heard Israeli government officials and their allies in the US --particularly among the pro-settler crowd -- defending construction in East Jerusalem settlements on the grounds that "everybody knows" these areas will always be part of Israel.
The "everybody knows" argument is familiar. Those in the peace camp often say that everybody knows what an Israeli-Palestinian permanent status agreement looks like. Their point being: all that is needed is the political will of courageous leaders to work out the final, hardest details and sign the treaty.
But today the "everybody knows" meme has been cynically appropriated by Netanyahu and his supporters. "Everybody knows these areas in East Jerusalem will always be Israel," they say, "so when the Palestinians (and the Americans) make a fuss about new construction plans, it is just for political purposes, not because there is any real issue."
Those peddling this rubbish are guilty of transparent manipulation. Those buying it are guilty of having short memories and an excess of credulity.
In 1993, when the peace process was taking off, the settlement of Ramat Shlomo -- which last week caused such a headache for Vice President Biden -- didn't exist. The site was an empty hill in East Jerusalem (not "no man's land," as some have asserted), home only to dirt, trees and grazing goats. It was empty because Israel expropriated the land in 1973 from the Palestinian village of Shuafat and made it off-limits to development. Only later, with the onset of the peace process era, was the land zoned for construction and a brand-new settlement called Rehkes Shuafat (later renamed Ramat Shlomo) built.
If in 1993 you had asked what areas "everybody knows" would stay part of Israel under any future agreement, the area that is today Ramat Shlomo -- territorially distinct from any other settlement and contiguous with the Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat -- would not have been mentioned.
The same can be said for the massive settlement of Har Homa, for which Israel issued new tenders in the past few days (sometime after the Ramat Shlomo-Biden fiasco). Here, again, the argument is that "everybody knows" this area will forever be part of Israel. But here again, we are talking about an area that at the outset of the peace process was empty land -- devoid of Israelis, belonging mainly to Palestinians, and contiguous entirely with Palestinian areas -- that anybody drawing a logical border would have placed on the Palestinian side.
American pundits and members of Congress may be unfamiliar with or may have forgotten these inconvenient facts, but the Palestinians -- who have watched Israel eat away at East Jerusalem at an increasing pace -- have not.
Some will argue that these are the facts on the ground today, and the fact is that Israel will never part with the big East Jerusalem settlements. So regardless of sins of the past, why make a fuss about new construction in them?
The answer lies in a closer look at what Netanyahu means when he talks about what "everybody knows."
Because if he meant that everybody understands what will be Israeli and what will be Palestinian in Jerusalem, this would potentially be great news: it could mean an agreement is possible, at least on Jerusalem, tomorrow. And if that were what he meant, then just as he suggests that Israel can build without restrictions in the areas that "everybody knows" will stay Israeli, he would have no problem with Palestinians building without restrictions in the areas that everyone knows will be Palestinian.
But there's the catch: for Netanyahu, there is no place in Jerusalem that "everybody knows" will be Palestinian.
What Netanyahu really means is that East Jerusalem land falls into two categories: areas that "everybody knows" Israel will keep and where it can therefore act with impunity, and areas that Israel hopes it can keep, by dint of changing so many facts on the ground before a peace agreement is reached that they move into the first category.
It is an approach that can be summed up as: "what's mine is mine, and what you think is yours will hopefully be mine, too." It discloses with stark clarity the underlying principle of Netanyahu's Jerusalem policies: the status of Jerusalem and its borders will be determined by Israeli deeds rather than by negotiations. More bluntly, who needs agreement with Palestinians or recognition of the international community when "everybody knows"?
And it is an approach that we see today on the ground, where Israel is doing its best -- through construction, demolitions, changes in the public domain -- to transform areas of East Jerusalem that have always been overwhelmingly Palestinian into areas that everybody will soon recognize as Israeli, now and forever. This is happening in the area surrounding the Old City, in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods like Ras al Amud and Jebel Mukabber, and it is now starting to target areas like Shuafat and Beit Hanina.
The notion that a peace process can survive such an Israeli approach in Jerusalem is not rational. The notion that Israel can be taken seriously as a peace partner while acting this way is farcical. And the notion that the United States can be a credible steward of peace efforts while tolerating such behavior is laughable.
Lara Friedman is director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now. Daniel Seidemann is the founder of the Israeli NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem.
In 2010, Jews in Israel and around the world will celebrate Passover beginning on the even of March 29th. Passover is the seven-day holiday (8 in the Diaspora) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorating the ancient Hebrews' escape from enslavement in Egypt. (In Israel, March 30th is also Land Day: the day when Palestinians commemorate and protest the confiscation of their lands by the Israeli government; but that’s another story.)
As I’m learning, the Passover holiday begins with the Seder, a traditional ceremonial meal. Its centerpiece is a special Seder plate containing six symbolic foods. Each has its own significance in the retelling of the story of the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt. The stack of three matzos, or unleavened bread, a kind of cracker made of plain white flour and water, has its own separate plate on the Seder table.
For each of the six traditional items on the Seder plate (as per Wikipedia and the Chabad website) —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, connect with a broader perspective on the meaning of Passover right here, right now, in the land that became the eventual endpoint of that ancient exodus.
Maror and Chazeret— Bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Egypt. Slavery: severe curtailment of one’s freedom. Today, one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza are tasting the bitterness of unfreedom, hermetically sealed in their encircled enclave with no end in sight. Sixty percent are under the age of 16. The Jewish citizens of Israel have hardened their hearts to this reality and they have expected the rest of the world’s Jews to do likewise. For how long will you wait for Palestinians to vanish?
Charoset — A coarse mixture of chopped nuts, apples or dates, and wine, meant to symbolize the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt. Today, Israel permits no mortar, or cement, or any other building materials, to enter Gaza. Let them sleep in tents! This, after last winter’s assault on Gaza, internationally documented war crimes (and possibly crimes against humanity), causing over 1,400 deaths in 22 days between December 2008 and January 2009– leaving scores homeless in the rubble. Is this the freedom Moses envisioned? The freedom to attack civilians with the tanks, planes and warships of the “Jewish” State? Doesn’t sound very Jewish to me. Not at all.
Karpas — A vegetable other than bitter herbs, dipped into salt water (which represents tears) to recall the pain felt by the Jewish slaves in Egypt. Tears! Pain! In your name, my Jewish friends, Israel continues its inhuman siege on Gaza. The folks there shed tears as salty as anyone’s; their pain is beyond description. Two of every three of today’s Gaza residents originally lost their homes in what is now Israel when the state was established. Six decades later, they find themselves living a nightmare, a kind of living death: their economy in ruins, their neighborhoods in ruins, their educational and health systems in ruins, even their sanitation systems in ruins. Israel refuses to allow reconstruction. What comes after stripping Gazans from their last remaining sense of sanity?
Z'roa — A roasted lamb shankbone (or a chicken wing, or chicken neck) symbolizes the paschal sacrifice offered originally on the eve of the exodus and later in 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 people, for a people without a land”? A million of today’s Gazans are from the families that Israel expelled. Gazans have remained steadfast under conditions even the early Hebrews might have found intolerable in Egypt. Gazans, together with all Palestinians, are the people that Jews in Israel are destined to live with, today, tomorrow, and forever.The only uncertainty is how much more hate will be generated by military occupation and armed assault before a process of shared rehabilitation can begin.
Beitzah — A hard-boiled egg, symbolizing the main festival sacrifice that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night. 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 over the destruction of the Temple and the subsequent inability to offer sacrifices there in honor of the Pesach holiday.Mourning!As Jews, you know a lot about mourning; consider the sixty-two years of mourning, consider every day of every one of those years, among the people--real people, with real names and real children—in Gaza and in squalid refugee camps all around Israel who can see their homeland with the naked eye, but are denied their basic human right of returning home. Sixty-two Passovers and counting. All I ask of you on this year’s holy day, as you contemplate the egg on the Seder plate, is to remember them, no more.
My Jewish sisters and brothers, you can continue to look away as Israel claims to speak and to act in your name.It kills and maims in your name. It dispossesses and occupies in your name.It talks peace and wages war in your name.If you turn a deaf ear to their mourning again this year, if you harden your heart again this year, if your voice is not raised this year in protest – then you are acquiescing in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of another people, in your name.If you cannot see 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.
It is written in the Talmud: We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are. I urge you, while you commemorate the Hebrews’ ancient slavery and deliverance, to see yourselves finally as equals in this world: equal with your neighbors, neither their masters nor their slaves.I urge you to see yourself and your children in the image of every Palestinian mother, father and child in Gaza. Let this year be the year of your shared redemption!
Free Gaza now!End the occupation now!Happy Passover from Gaza!
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living under Israeli occupation. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and blogs at www.epalestine.com.
Here are some teachings that may be useful to you whether or not you actually attend a Seder or do the spiritual practice of Passover.
1. RabbiLerner's Supplement to the Haggadah. Please read it!
2. Letty Cottin Pogrebin's somewhat humorour but also quite serious The Ten Plagues According to Jewish Women. Letty was a founding editor of Ms. Magazine and a founding member of Tikkun's Editorial Advisory Board.
3. Prophetic Passover words from a new Tikkun blogger . You can read it on Tikkun Daily
4. Letty Cottin again--on the Judah-ization of East Jerusalem--NOT what we have in mind when we sing Next Year in Jerusalem!
5. My Jewish Renewal rabbinic colleague Miles Krassen on How To Get to Passover--an approach based on Kabbalah
And many blessings for a spiritually deep Passover, Easter, spring celebration or any other way you are celebrating the holiness of the period ahead.