Australian Jews, along with the rest of world Jewry, are currently celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover, a holiday which - more than any other - bridges the gap between the secular and the religious. Over here, Passover coincides with school holidays, so Jews will travel around the country as they meet up with family for the all-important first night Seder.
Of all the Jewish holidays, Passover is probably the one that connects us most directly to our roots and our past. It serves as the catalyst for the birth of our national identity and even though many thousands of years have passed, most of us still put up mezuzot and we still eat matzot irrespective of the depth of our religious observance.
Although Jews are entrenched in different cultures across different lands around the world, there is not much fundamental difference between sitting down for a Seder in Jerusalem or Melbourne or Auckland. It all bears testimony to the common thread that runs through all of us, a thread that can be traced back to the first day of freedom, leaving Egypt.
Passover is just as relevant to us today as it was back then - it doesn't have an an expiry date. It is a holiday that binds us across the annals of time, through the vast expanse of lands, through the pain of catastrophes and the joys of accomplishment from Egypt to Melbourne to Jerusalem. When Moses led his people to freedom, he did more than give them freedom in a physical sense; he also gave them freedom in a metaphorical sense. Although our history is filled with many tragedies, it is equally filled with many triumphs – triumphs that could not have been achieved without the freedom of our minds. It is the ability of our minds to have the freedom to dream that has led to all the discoveries and achievements in the world. The State of Israel, after all, would not exist today if it did not exist first in the minds of Herzl and others.
Who could tell what thoughts crossed the minds of the people that day as they left behind the place of their imprisonment? They were likely filled with nervous apprehension and even more nervous excitement, but as Egypt grew more distant, a process began that continues to this day. The shackles that held their minds in a prison had been broken, to be replaced with minds that wonder – the Wondering Jews.
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based writer who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and is currently working in the Information Technology industry. He is an avid contributor to discussions on Israel, writing frequently to local newspapers. He has a keen interest in politics and creative writing.