Passover's gift: The Promised and Undivided Land
Billions, of the world's people do not know the meaning of the towering festival of freedom and liberty known as Passover; a festival of spring, recognizing an event that has blessed the world for over 3,300 years.
The festival begins on March 25th of this year and falls always on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. Jews and Christians know the Biblical story of the Exodus and of the salvation of the Jewish people from centuries of slavery under the Egyptian pharaohs and the subsequent creation and deliverance of an entire nation.
Such a seminal event in humanity's history became the foundation for freedom and liberty- created many centuries before democracy was first enunciated by Greek philosophers who nevertheless lived within a polytheistic society.
Many people know in varying degrees the Passover story and the birth of the Jewish people and of their undying faith in the One and Only God; invisible and indivisible. Judaism has given the world monotheism in its purest and most undiluted nature. The Unity of God is what Jews have defended against all who attempted to suggest a plurality: even to enduring martyrdom as they uttered with their dying breath the towering prayer, the Shema, which is the central place in Jewish religious thought: "Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One."
And other words from Deuteronomy:
"The Lord, He is God, in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else."
Or from Isaiah: "Besides Me, there is no God. Turn to me and you are saved in all ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is none else."
The long suffering Jews under Egyptian bondage were led to freedom by the Jewish prophet, Moses, who brought them to their own very special and promised land: The Land of Israel.
Moses spoke with God in Sinai and brought a wondrous divine gift to the Jewish people and through them to all humanity -- the Decalogue; the Ten Commandments, and the basis of today's laws of Judeo-Christian civilization and jurisprudence. These ten brief commandments -- a mere 120 Hebrew words -- are written on the walls of synagogues and in many churches as well as in secular sites. Many of the latter are often the subject of attack by the ACLU and atheist organizations.
As in all Jewish practice, Moses was never deified. He was shown in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, as a man; nothing else. Indeed in order not to deify him or exalt him over others he is shown in the Holy Bible with human failings and his burial place remains unknown. He sought the mountain top and beheld the Promised Land of Israel, yet was never to enter.
Unlike in so many other nations, Moses' sons and descendants did not set up a dynasty, and in fact are not mentioned in Scripture after his death (except for a possible coded reference to a grandson in Judges 18:30). In fact, in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) Moses is described merely as "the humblest and meekest of all human beings." For in Judaism, only God is divine and besides Him there are none other.
Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is the first of the Jewish holidays and festivals, coinciding with the coming of the spring in the Jewish people's ancestral, biblical and native land: the land given by God in an everlasting Covenant to the Jewish people. It is the land extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea -- a mere 40 miles in width known for millennia by its biblical names of Judea and Samaria.
Sadly, a mostly hostile world prefers to deny its biblical and Jewish patrimony by renaming it the West Bank, the name given to it by the Jordanian Arab invaders who drove out its Jewish inhabitants and illegally occupied the territory for a mere 19 years from 1948 until it was liberated by Israel during its defensive June 1967 Six Day War. Indeed, part of the Covenanted land also includes Gilead (the biblical and ancestral possession of the tribes of Manasseh, Gad and Reuben) which is east of the river Jordan in the present day Arab state of Jordan.
But in the heart of the land stretching from the river to the sea, an Arab people who call themselves Palestinians would carve out a terror state with the sole intention of coming against the Jewish homeland and destroying it. In doing so they challenge the very promises of God in Scripture; (God to Abraham):
"Unto thy seed have I given this land...I will give to thee and to thy seed after thee all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession"; (God to Isaac):
"Unto thee and unto thy seed will I give all these lands... "; (God to Jacob):
"The land which I gave unto Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee..."; (God to Moses):
"I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them...unto a good land and large, a land flowing with milk and honey..."; (God to Joshua):
"Be strong and courageous, for it is you who will cause this people to inherit the land that I have sworn to their fathers to give them."
The Passover festival precedes two other harvest festivals based upon the agricultural cycles of ancient and modern Israel. Next comes Shavuot, Pentecost, which records and commemorates the giving to Moses the Ten Commandments followed by Succot, which is known as Tabernacles. Mankind was, and is, blessed through the Passover for it is a veritable gift to those who accept its divine message and perform the ritual meal, the Seder, recording the Exodus story.
But there is an evil in men's hearts, and it is a profound evil, for those who hate and envy this Jewish gift to humanity and its message of freedom, liberty and foundational democracy. They have chosen since time immemorial to rise up to destroy all that it stands for and persecute those -- the Jews -- who received it from God and who have shared it with all humanity.
Let me recount what Mary Antin wrote in 1911 about the horrors inflicted upon the Jews in Russia as they celebrated the festival of liberty in the Exodus story during the festive Seder meal. Ms. Antin wrote of what routinely took place at Passover -- often coinciding with Easter -- and of how Russian neighbors reminded the Jews that for them it was another Egypt:
"... in Russian cities and even more in country districts, where Jewish families lived scattered, the stupid peasants would hear lies about the Jews, fill themselves with vodka, and set out to kill their Jewish neighbors.
"They attacked them with knives and clubs and scythes and axes, killed them or tortured them and burned their houses. This was called a pogrom.
"Jews who escaped the pogroms came with wounds on them and horrible, horrible, stories of little babies torn limb from limb before their mother's eyes. Only to hear these things made one sob and sob and choke with pain.
"People who saw such things never smiled any more, no matter how long they lived and sometimes their hair turned white in a day and others went insane."
In the Passover story, which is enshrined in the Haggadah, the book retelling the events of the Exodus and of the order of the Seder meal, there is a profound and millennial old passage: "Not one man alone has risen up against us to destroy us, but in every generation there have risen up against us those who sought to destroy us; but the Holy One, blessed be He, delivers us from their hands." And so it was and still is.
As if to remind us of the generational evil that is perpetrated against Jewish men, women and children, some two years ago, a family in the Jewish Israeli village of Itamar, in biblical and ancestral Samaria, was slaughtered by Arab Muslims whose tracks led back to a nearby Palestinian settlement. The members of the Fogel family were sleeping in their tiny home on the Sabbath when two Palestinian murderers entered and knifed to death the father, mother, and three children, including a little baby girl only three months old.
This is only one recent example in a long and dismal string of savage atrocities perpetrated by local Arabs, those who today call themselves Palestinians, against Jews as the latter sought to live peaceful lives and redeem the land. And by the way, there has never in all of recorded history ever existed a sovereign, independent Arab state called Palestine.
Mary Antin spoke about unspeakable horrors inflicted on Jewish families in Russia; atrocities which had been repeated time after time throughout Europe and the Islamic world for millennia. Those relentless persecutions, pogroms and the shattering genocide perpetrated against the Jews in the Holocaust by Nazi Germany, in which a third of the world's Jewish population was exterminated, were done when the Jews were still living in the long night of statelessness after Rome had destroyed Jewish Judea in 135 AD.
Yet today, since the modern miracle in 1948 of Israel's rebirth and reconstitution as a sovereign, independent nation, restored again to its native, ancestral and biblical homeland, successive Israeli governments since that of Yitzhak Rabin -- despite all the overwhelming and empirical evidence of implacable Arab and Muslim refusal to ever accept it as a Jewish state -- plead for peace. It is offered again and again to the Arabs, those who call themselves Palestinians, and again and again rejected by them. Yet still Israeli leaders make unheard of and suicidal offers of "land for peace."
And still the world urges Israel to make yet more concessions to these Palestinian Arabs who never, ever make any concessions to the Jewish state in return. Instead, in their state run media they indoctrinate their children from pre-school age with relentless and utterly evil hate towards Israel and the Jewish people so that yet another generation of Arabs grow up with genocide towards the Jewish state in their hearts. As the Jewish prophet said: "Peace, peace but there is no peace."
So Israel's repeated attempts to seek peace may seem to many observers as an aberration, an illogical and deeply naïve act in the face of so much evidence of antipathy and hatred exhibited towards the Jewish state by the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians.
After all, what nation would accept such Arab and Muslim barbarity and withstand so many Palestinian crimes against its civilian Jewish population -- and still hope for peace? What nation would continue, despite the rain of thousands of missiles launched from Hamas occupied Gaza upon Israeli women and children, to hold out the hand of peace to a people who display such cruelty and crimes against humanity? What nation, after seeing the horror in the Fogel home, would still harbor hopes of a peaceful Palestinian state living side by side with Israel? What people would still entertain the insanity of dividing up the tiny land under the fatal rubric of a "two-state-solution?"
Well, only a state whose people embraced the Passover message for millennia and the biblical passage in Leviticus19;18, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," would remain convinced of the benefits to all, even to an Arab people who have poisoned and morally crippled themselves for over 60 years with the most abhorrent and loathsome anti-Jewish hatred. But, nevertheless, to give away one inch of the land is a profound rejection of the Covenant made between His people and Almighty God. It is also a strategy of national suicide.
As Passover approaches, there are insistent reports that the Islamists fighting to overthrow Syria's Bashar Assad are poised to launch a war against Israel on the Golan Heights, which Israel liberated in the 1967 Six Day War and which has a rich Jewish history dating back to Biblical times. Remember the words: In every generation.
So we approach the Passover festival, which brings light and blessings to all humanity but which also brings the maniacal threats of genocide against the Jewish people by those who would unleash unutterable terror and who, like the evil president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spew hideous ravings and shameless libels against the ever suffering Jews.
As Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post reminded Leah Zinder, Israeli broadcaster and journalist, in a recent IBA broadcast, Israel is not alone. There are millions of Americans -- the vast majority -- who support Israel and want to fight for her in the media and in the political realm against grievous pressure from the Obama Administration but are waiting for Israel to give them the reason to do so. Christian Zionists display immense and heartfelt love for the restored Jewish state and are a beacon of spiritual sanity in a world gone mad.
So these timely thoughts and questions must be urgently considered before, during and after the time of Passover for it surely is humanity's moral barometer.
As the great Rabbi J.H. Hertz wrote in 1935:
"Though man cannot always even half control his destiny, God has given him the reins of his conduct altogether into his hands."
And it would not go amiss to remind the increasingly Godless European Union of Passover's gift to the Jewish people: The promised and undivided land.
Oh, and by the way, for centuries Jews have uttered a prayer at the conclusion of the Passover meal. In Hebrew it is L'Shanah HaBa'ah B'Yerushalayim. In English it means, "Next year may we be in Jerusalem," the 3,000 year old eternal capital of the Jewish people.
But in the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century the world, through the hateful two-state-solution, is forcing Jerusalem to again be divided by a wall of concrete and Arab hate. Those who call themselves Palestinians demand the eastern half of the city and the ancient Jewish prayer at Passover may yet become a bitter and tragic joke.
Worshipers will be forced into saying,
"Next year in West Jerusalem."
Victor Sharpe is a freelance writer and author of the trilogy, Politicide: The attempted murder of the Jewish state.