The festival of freedom, in our promised land

Tomorrow night marks the start of Passover, Pesach, the holiday that recalls our exodus from Egypt. We celebrate Bnai Yisrael’s escape from slavery, and our 40 year journey towards the land promised to our ancestors by God. It’s a holiday symbolized by eating matza for 7 days, by holding a “seder” – a festive gathering, where we read the Haggadah, and are told to “live the exodus” for ourselves, every year. I love Pesach. It is my favorite holiday. In spite of all the cleaning preparations, turning over my kitchen, and still having time to cook & bake, I absolutely love Pesach. I refuse to allow the nitty gritty prep get in the way of my enjoyment. I come to the seder annually, feeling excited, with great anticipation. I love to hear what my children have learned in school, the songs they sing, how they read from the Haggadah in Hebrew. I love watching their faces as they taste the bitter maror (horseradish in our family), and their excitement when they finally get to eat a piece of matza. I love how people start to loosen up a little bit after the first or second cup of wine, and by the time we get to the meal, everyone is happy, not just me.

Last year on Pesach, I remember singing “LeShana haBa’ah beYerushalyim” (Next year in Jerusalem) with a very different feeling to usual. No, we are not in Jerusalem for Pesach, but we are in Israel. We are in that land which the Jewish people set out to reach, all those years ago. That was the beginning of Am Yisrael, the Nation of Israel. Those who left with Moses, they were the original pioneers. Not all the Jewish people in Egypt left, in fact, there is a common belief that a majority remained, while only a small percentage left. This year, we are part of that percentage. We are those Jews who live in our ancestral land. We may not be pioneers anymore (and that’s fine with me, I like my cities ready built thank you very much), but we are here, living a Jewish life, in our Jewish homeland.

I look around me in the supermarkets, and instead of prices skyrocketing as Pesach approaches, I see chicken & meat on sale. I see regular grocery items with special Pesach stamps on them priced the same as always. I see car washes pop up all over the place, offering to clean out my car for Pesach at a reasonable rate. Restaurants have signs up warning that they will be closed today (Thursday) in order to turn over and be ready for Pesach. There’s not an Easter Egg in sight in my part of town, but that’s ok, because that’s not my holiday, and as long as I have chocolate, I’ll survive! And speaking about Easter, the Christians living in Israel will freely celebrate their own holiday next week. This cannot be said for the Christians living elsewhere in the Middle East.

Yesterday Nefesh B’Nefesh announced the dates for Summer 2015 charter and group flights. A number of people that we know will be on one of those flights this summer. Two families we know also received their immigration visas yesterday. I know that this year at their seders, they too will sing “LeShana haBa’ah beYerushalayim” with an uplifted heart, just like we did last year. We can’t wait to have you all here, and hope that next Pesach, we truly will be in a rebuilt Jerusalem, the eternal capital of our Jewish homeland.
Chag Kasher veSameach.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Rachel Schecter
    Apr 02, 2015 @ 20:48:27

    Vanessa, beautifully written. Someone once asked us in the USA how we can live in Israel and not live in Jerusalem. The answer was easy – “we live a lot closer to Jerusalem than you do.” I have been here over 40 years and still get tears in my eyes when I enter the supermarket and all the chametz is covered up with signs “chametz”.

    Reply

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