Comment: Passover, The great unifier

By
April 22, 2016 03:27

According to a Pew Research Center study, 93 percent of Israeli Jews attend a festive meal that recounts the Exodus from Egypt and forms the basis of our peoplehood.

2 minute read.



ASHKENAZI CHIEF RABBI David Lau hands a box containing the symbolic hametz (leavening).

ASHKENAZI CHIEF RABBI David Lau hands a box containing the symbolic hametz (leavening) of the State of Israel in a pre-Passover sale to Hussein Jaber from Abu Ghosh.. (photo credit: FLASH90)

No matter how divided Israeli Jews are on every issue on the national landscape, come tonight, almost all of us will be sitting down to a Passover Seder.

According to a Pew Research Center study, 93 percent of Israeli Jews attend a festive meal that recounts the Exodus from Egypt and forms the basis of our peoplehood.

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Unlike most Jewish holidays, Passover, with its sing-alongs, ample wine and opportunity for family gatherings, has endeared itself to the secular public, with the study reporting that 87 percent of secular Israeli Jews attended a Seder last year. If Israel had a Thanksgiving, then Passover would be it – minus the touch football game.

Experiencing the streams of cars jamming the roads filled with crisply dressed families heading to grandparents or siblings who got the short straw to make the Seder this year has become an Israeli tradition as much as barbecuing on Independence Day or riding bikes down the middle of freeways on Yom Kippur.

In a country that has become increasingly fractured with factionalism, tribalism and a heightened venomous tone toward each other, Seder night is one of the few times that we can focus on what unites us as a people.

Although all religiously observant Jews attend a traditional Seder, the Pew Report shows that nearly a quarter of Israeli Jews opt for an “alternative” Seder. Whether that involves bringing in readings about modern-day freedom and oppression to make the Seder more relevant, or streamlining some of the rather cumbersome passages so the kids don’t lose it or Uncle Moshe doesn’t start hitting the bottle early, the result represents a ray of hope.

Those who feel disenfranchised by the fossilized religious establishment are attempting to express themselves as Jews and as modern Israelis. This evolution must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and to retain the wonderful traditions that have sustained the Jewish people through the ages.

With that mashup between the old and new, the Jew and the Israeli, there’s a chance that – unlike most Jewish rituals which the secular public has gradually eschewed in favor of being Israeli rather than Jewish – Passover will be the mortar that keeps us together.

Future generations of Israelis will be privileged to sample that amazing haroset, to pound the table to “Echad Mi Yodaya,” and to try and grasp that elusive timeless sense that they themselves were released from bondage and are now a free people in their own land.

That beaming sense of national unity and identity should be able to last us for a while – at least until the traffic jam on the way home.


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