Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.
Passover is a predominantly Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the flight for freedom of the Jewish people from the days of Moses. I feel that Passover of 2011 is especially significant due to the struggle for freedom of both Israel and many of Israel’s neighbours.
Many of our neighbours are struggling to replace monarchies and dictatorships with democracy. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, which is spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and is celebrated for seven or eight days. It is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays.
In the narrative of the Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the Children of Israel escape slavery in Egypt by inflicting ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves; the tenth and worst of the plagues was the slaughter of the first-born. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term “Passover”. When Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason it is called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”(flat unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday.
The Jewish people experienced a second historical Exodus following the horrors of the Holocaust. The survivors of history’s greatest injustice and Jews throughout the world claimed the right to return to “Eretz Israel”. History has taught the people of the book that a national homeland is a necessity for survival.
Palestine was a British colony. The Jews, Christians, and Muslims were refused freedom and justice by the leaders of Great Britain. The United Nations Partition for Palestine in 1947 established both a Jewish and a Palestinian homeland. The members of the Arab League refused to accept the plan and invaded both Israel and Palestine in 1948. Many of those nations- which included: Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia- led the Arab invasion. These were nations whose citizens never enjoyed democracy and true freedom and refused to give that right to their neighbours.
Sixty two years later these same nations refuse to grant their citizens with freedom and equality. Today, the citizens of these countries are fighting to obtain a democratic lifestyle that they have only learned about from observing Western Nations. They have chosen to fight for the unknown- a life of democracy- even though they know that their life could be lost in the battle.
Most of us cannot imagine what it is like to be a citizen in many of these countries. Marshal Law has ruled the regime in Syria for thirty years? Saudi Arabia is feudal monarchy where people lose their limbs for stealing a loaf of bread. Egypt was ruled by a dictatorship for the past forty years. Egypt’s citizens were not granted civil rights and most in live extreme poverty.
This year in Israel we are celebrating the sixty second Passover in the modern Jewish state. Many of us celebrating here place emphasis on the fact that Moses and the ancient Israelites wondered the dessert for forty years before they entered the land of Canaan. Yahu wanted our people to think as free people- not as slaves- before they were given their own nation.
Seeing as we are a considerably new country, we do our best to maintain that state of mind. Let us hope that the people in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen obtain and enjoy freedom now.
About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist, currently spokesman in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.