Cindy Shulkin

Celebrating True Pesach Freedom

Despite the coming of Pesach, the festival of freedom, of our self-definition as a nation, as a people, I have never felt so un- free.  I have never felt so controlled by racism and the fear that stands at its root.   I have never felt so consumed by the possibility that our beautiful little democratic stronghold will cease to exist as our beautiful little democratic stronghold and that our nation and our people will lose its intrinsic values and ideals and therefore become one not worthy of belonging.  I have never felt so enslaved by those who would marginalize me and create an atmosphere of hostility so great that people feel the freedom to act violently against others who might disagree with their ideas…

I feel enslaved by the feelings of others who scorn me and who disregard my ideals. I feel enslaved by those who would claim that my opinions are a danger to my own people as they constitute anti-Zionist views and being a traitor.

We have allowed ourselves to be led down the path of “conquer and divide”…We have enabled one mortal man—that is all he is– to bring up the ugliest, the most awful part of our humanity (one can only exacerbate internal feelings that already exist)…

We have allowed ourselves to go to a place where the ends justify the means…and the means are becoming more and more shocking…We are enslaved by injustice

This year I feel enslaved by a threat to our democratic infrastructure…a threat that comes from within political and societal camps with which I obviously do not agree.  I feel enslaved by being a victim.

But I also very much feel enslaved by our own passivity in almost paving the way to form an infrastructure within which these divisions could fester.

We have become complacent.  We have become enslaved by our own complacency.  We have allowed ourselves the luxury of “having someone else” do our fighting, of thinking that our beautiful little state has already been built (when as we can blatantly see, it is in a terrible vulnerable state of development), of using the excuse that we just “want to live our lives” and therefore don’t really need to speak out, to exercise our right to demonstrate against what has become in and of itself enslaving.

As a people, we have not decried racism (aside from conversations over dinner or shaking our heads mildly at the development of camps for African  refugees)  perhaps assuming that it will just go away, or because it doesn’t affect us directly, or because we don’t have the time.  We are, after all, so busy leading our lives on a day to day level.   We have become enslaved by our inactivity, by our acceptance, by our acute ability to look  the other way and not make comparisons with what we ourselves have experienced over history.

We have become enslaved by complacency…and by our never ending attempts to just live like everyone else without realizing that, for good or for bad, we aren’t like everyone else.

I am enslaved this Pesach by the very notion that my non-action has led to a situation whereby the Prime Minister of the Jewish State, full of refugees and Holocaust survivors, and their children and their children’s children, has the audacity to utter racism and societal division as campaign slogans.

My head is low.  I am enslaved by humiliation.

I don’t feel much like celebrating freedom this year.  I don’t feel much like re-living our glorious past and our development into a nation, into a people.

We obviously take our freedom too much for granted.

This year we shouldn’t simply celebrate our freedom.  Rather,  we much acknowledge and celebrate our lack of freedom.  God willing this realization will round up our ideals, our activism, our political and societal awareness.

This year we need celebrate our breaking through the bonds of our complacency. This year we must celebrate our wake up call and our responsibility in not feeling complacent anymore. We cannot just live..or drink coffee on Friday mornings instead of going to a protest…We have to actively work to free ourselves rather than just reading about it once a year.   We need create our reality.  We must celebrate our vitality and delight in our creativity and our aspirations to be a just and good people.

It is clear and imperative that we need take upon ourselves to free ourselves of this bondage.  Perhaps acknowledging what is at stake is the first step, acknowledging that we ourselves must create our own reality instead of letting others rule us by fear,  actively rivaling agendas which do not serve us, shedding our passivity and assertively opposing  being led to places we do not want to go.

As Pesach approaches,  I hope and pray that acknowledging our complacency and choosing to act…choosing to choose…choosing to be free…will lead us to true freedom.  We will become free when we choose to free ourselves.

I will try celebrating this during Pesach.

We need to rely on our Jewish and democratic values…on our ideals of people hood, of equality and of honesty, our lessons learned from the past  We need not play into the hands of those who would divide and conquer us…We need not let those committed to using fear instill it within us.

We need choose activism over passivity.  We need be energized by idealism rather than fear.  We need acknowledge that we are a nation of momentous resources, of strength, of creativity and fortitude.

Only then will we  truly become closer and closer to true freedom.

And only then will we break through our bondage.  And then will we truly celebrate it.

About the Author
Cindy came to Israel from the US in 1988. She is married and the mother of three children. Cindy works full time as a social worker and is active with her synagogue which is affiliated with the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism.
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