By Sofia Zway
Pesach has always been my favourite holiday. It was one of the few Jewish things that I was familiar with when I was growing up in Ecuador.
Of course, I loved that we got to eat a big, special meal with friends we didn’t see too often. But I also loved that the Pesach Seder is such an experiential experience.
I love that every year we relive that transition from slavery to liberation. I love that the Haggadah forces us to question what it means to be free and what it means to live today in relation to a collective memory that reminds us every day that we were slaves in the land of Egypt. My favourite part of the Haggadah is the injunction:
In every generation a person is obliged to see themselves as if they had personally gone out of Egypt.
For all of us, Seder night reminds us of our own journeys through Mitzraim, the narrow places, that restrict and limit us from being our fully-realised selves.
For all of us, Seder night calls us to remember that once we were strangers, and that that should never be the shape of the world again.
This year I am celebrating Pesach from Israel, the land of our liberation, that sacred space on the other side of Mitzraim. Yet there is something strangely bitter about Pesach this year, and not just because of the maror.
There is something strangely ironic about celebrating and talking about freedom in this place and at this time when the State of Israel is preparing to deport thousands of African asylum seekers.
This has been an issue heavy in conversation and resistance over the past few months, and the decision to deport them long in planning. In an ironic twist, the government intends to deport the first group of asylum seekers (there are currently about 38 000 African asylum seekers in Israel) on the first of April, Chol HaMoed Pesach here in Israel.
Israel, the land of our liberation, is choosing the very moment in which we relive our freedom to take away the freedom and safety of another. The asylum seekers, mostly Sudanese and Eritrean, will be deported to Uganda and Rwanda, where they could face severe discrimination and potentially be at risk for their lives.
This Pesach, I am reminded more than ever of why Pesach matters. I am reminded of why it is important for us to relive Yetziat Mitzraim every year, and to remember it every day and every week as we recite the Shema and say Kiddush.
For me, Pesach is a call to action. It serves as a reminder of what it means to be Jewish.
Seder night reminds me that our rituals mean something, and that they have something to teach us about how we relate to others in the world around us.
Pesach, the time of our freedom, reminds me that none of us are truly free until everyone is free.
As we sit around our Seder tables this year, free and blessed, may we remember that we have not fully left Egypt, and that there is still much work to be done.