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No liberation without Palestinian liberation

  • 16 April 2018


On the last Friday of March, Jews over the world celebrated Passover. This year, away from my family, I spent the traditional Passover meal — called Seder (Hebrew for 'order') — with friends. We sat around a table and followed the tradition of reading the Haggadah — a book that sets out the order of the Seder.

The Seder is laden with symbolism. Every piece of food set at the centre of the table signifies something. A burnt shank of lamb (zroah) represents the paschal sacrifice on the eve of the Jews' exodus from Egypt. Bitter herbs (maror — usually fresh horseradish) remind us of the bitterness of our ancestors' slavery in Egypt.

Charoset, a sweet paste or mixture of various fruits, such as apples or pears, with nuts and wine, signifies the mortar and brick made by the Jews as Pharaoh's slaves. Karpas (conventionally fresh parsley) is dipped in saltwater and then eaten, symbolising the tears Jews shed in slavery. An egg is associated with mourning, but also — with its rounded shape — the cycle of life.

Ritual and symbolism preserve cultural uniformity, as they engender a sense of sameness among a community no matter how dispersed it is. I love that about Passover — the routine, the ritual, the order. We read from the same text, and tell the story of Exodus, thus fulfilling the biblical command: 'And on that day you shall tell your child, for this God has taken me out of the Land of Egypt' (Exodus chapter 13 verse 8).

As we go through the order of the Seder, we read, sing, and tell the story of Jews' slavery in Egypt, our exodus and liberation from Pharaoh's chains. One of the songs states: 'We were once slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, now we are free.' It's a night when Jewish people relish our freedom — no more masters, we are liberated.

The Seder concludes with the following words: 'Next year in Jerusalem.' This reminds us of Jewish exile, and so we end the order emphasising our obligation to return — next year, in Jerusalem. Next year, we come home.

As we Jews celebrated Passover, on 30 March 2018, other people protested their right to return home. The Palestinian 'Great March of Return' was launched on the Gaza Strip, also known as the 'Gaza Strip Prison' due to its confinement and strict restrictions both from the ruling party Hamas and the