Tuesday 10 April 2012

The Powers of Deception over Pesach

The spring has come, and Pesach is suddenly upon us.  It is astonishing how easy it is to shift attention from all the issues relating to Israel's safety and security, to the seemingly mundane activities relating to preparation and separation for Pesach.

Until a short time ago, the newspapers and national agenda were filled with stories of Iran's nuclear program, of Grad missiles being fired from Gaza and about preparations being made for a possible war of great significance.  It is great that Pesach has come around to distract us from these matters of importance, which have a tendency to weigh heavily on the minds of many of Israel's citizens.  Somehow, the festival has managed to deceive us all into feeling and believing that the existential threat has somehow been relieved, even for a few short days.

The days have become warmer and the spring cleaning has been undertaken at a manic pace.  Furniture and household items have been put on the streets to make place for the new replacements in honour of Pesach.  Many of the discarded items seem hardly used, and many of them were snapped up by those not quite in a position to replace their items with new from the shop.  Adverts on the radio and TV all seem to have Pesach tunes as their theme, and gifts are being dragged around by hundreds of motorcycle couriers to business associates, family and friends. Charity organisations have been in top gear distributing thousands of food parcels to the needy, to ensure that everybody can make a basic Seder, and that everybody has what they need to observe the festival.  Supermarkets have covered their aisles to prevent people reaching those items that may contain any chametz (leaven), and they are giving away packs of matzah for little or no charge to those who spend more than a certain amount.  On the day before Pesach, the air was filled with the smoke of the burning of the last remnants of any chametz that people had collected from their homes.  This familiar smell announces in no uncertain terms that Pesach is upon us.

Pesach celebrates two of the greatest miracles in Jewish history - the exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea.  We are told that the 7th day of Pesach is a holiday to mark day upon which Moses and the children of Israel cross the Red Sea safely ahead of the following Egyptian army.  Now, a few thousand years later, we are told that we are living an even greater miracle than that - the miracle of the State of Israel.  The Sinai Desert still represents a considerable challenge for the Jewish people.  Whereas then, it was all about how to cross this safely, now it is about how to prevent terrorists from using the cover of the desert to ship rockets and fire them towards Israel.  Then as now, astonishing events have taken place.  There is no plausible explanation as to how a nascent Israeli army succeeded in holding off the well-trained and well-equipped armies of multiple Arab countries during the War of Independence.  Some call it good fortune, and others call it a miracle sent from heaven. The reality of what happened, however, cannot be denied.  A succession of wars has been forced upon Israelis, and they have fought back in a bid to survive and to flourish.  Who would think that a nation decimated by the horrors of the Holocaust could rise to such heights?  Who would have guessed that Israel could be a technological and agricultural powerhouse in the region, and could make such huge contributions to the world in so many different ways?

Just as quickly as Pesach has pounced upon us, so it will be gone.  Soon afterwards, we will mark memorial days in quick succession to commemorate those who have fallen in the Holocaust and those who have fallen in wars and terror attacks in the modern State of Israel.  And then we will celebrate the biggest miracle of the Jewish people, the 64th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.

Even though the threat of a war with Iran, and the firing of Grad and Qassam rockets into civilian areas may have been forgotten for a short time, it is always lingering there somewhere in the background.  Pesach has allowed us to step into a mystical wonderland which is filled with fun and good things, but only until the next reality hits home.  We know that there are many out there who seek to destroy this dream, and to destroy the aspirations of the Jewish people to live in freedom to determine our own destiny.  Pesach teaches us that we were born to be a free nation, and the State of Israel provides exactly this for the Jewish people.  Being able to celebrate Pesach in Israel means marking some of the greatest miracles in Jewish history in the land that surely represents the greatest miracle we have experienced.  We will not allow anybody to take this away without a fight.  Our army is ready for this.

I often ask why I have merited the precious honour of being able to live in the Jewish homeland.  I think about how my grandparents and great-grandparents would have given almost anything to have this honour.  I think about what the victims of the Shoah would have given to know that a strong Jewish army exists to guard and protect the rights of Jews all around the world.  This is my reality, and it is one that I am enormously humbled to be able to partake in, and immensely proud to share.

In wishing all readers a wonderful Pesach, it is my wish that the story of Pesach will continue to inspire us to fight for our freedom and for our self-determination.  This will continue to drive the modern-day miracle.

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