Friday, April 22, 2011

Slavery, Freedom, Cliches

Another Pessah, the theme of which is "me-avdut le-herut" (from slavery to freedom), a motto with rich potential.

Of course the traditional discussion around the seder night table on this mighty theme is supposed to revolve on the story of Exodus from Egypt but the theme is too big to be contained by just one story, however epic. On one radio programme, a lot of people were using the Pessah motto to express the hope that they would find their way out of job slavery or possibly into a better paid version of it.

Another association this Pessah is of course what is happening in modern day Egypt. Shimon Peres wished the Egyptians well in their Exodus out of the repression of the Mubarak regime but also expressed the hope that this wouldn't lead "in the wrong direction". Meanwhile a group of distinguished recipients of the Israel Prize demonstrated outside the site of Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, where Israel's Declaration of Independence was made, to express support for a Palestinian state and their liberation (as well as ours) from the occupation:

[...]  "We call on everyone who seeks peace and freedom for all peoples to support the declaration of Palestinian statehood, and to act in a way that encourages the citizens of the two states to maintain peaceful relations on the basis of the 1967 borders... The total end to the occupation is a fundamental precondition for the liberation of the two peoples," read their statement

I found myself googling the lyrics of the famous spiritual 'Go Down Moses'. In one version this carries the line: 'Tell old Pharaohs to let my people go' (as though more than one Pharaoh was involved). According to Wikipedia "A Hebrew translation of the song is a common element in the Passover seder in Israel," but I doubt if that's true. Singing 'Go Down Moses' is not part of the local culture and (strange but true) the word 'Moses' fails to appear in the Hagaddah at all!

None of this was of the slightest interest to the vast majority of Israelis who celebrated seder night, like they always do, with a series of cliches and rituals that have been cleverly collected intio a short sketch by the comedy troupe Hagdud Ha-Ivri (for Hebrew speakers only).

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