Deb Reich
It's not the people... it's the paradigm.

Fakr fi’lakharina: Tonight, think of others

Photo credit: Courtesy
Jamal Niser. Photo courtesy of Sam Bahour.

A traditional Passover family Seder lasts several hours. Three minutes of that is about empathizing with the suffering of the Egyptians — the bad guys of that drama.

Briefly, Rabbi Samuel N. Gordon, senior rabbi emeritus of Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, Illinois (USA) describes it this way: “The ritual of the 10 Plagues, with the spilling of 10 drops of wine, teaches us that, even in the midst of our rejoicing for the miracles of our freedom, we lessen the sweetness of our cup of wine in sympathy for the suffering of the Egyptians.”

It is also true that sympathy for the hungry, the homeless, the disadvantaged and the displaced is interwoven throughout much of even the most traditional and least modernized versions of the Haggadah (the Seder prayerbook). The Seder starts off with “Let all who are hungry, come and eat.” And then there are the many alternate versions created over the last fifty years by the more liberal-activist streams of Judaism, starting with the first Freedom Seder in 1969 that used a Haggadah text by the late Rabbi Arthur Waskow and centered African American—Jewish American solidarity.

What Darwish wrote

I ask those of you, dear readers, who are preparing for your own Passover Seder today with friends and family, to consider the words of the late Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish in one of his best-known poems, Think of others: “As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others (those who have lost the right to speak)”.

Specifically, one of the others I think every Israeli Jew and every American Jew should be very seriously thinking of tonight is Palestinian-American prisoner Jamal Niser, 76, held for the last seven months in “administrative detention” without being charged, tried, or given an opportunity to refute the (secret) accusations against him. The most thorough and current description of his case is found online here, and my post about Jamal from last December on this blog, He’d rather be Jonah, is here.

According to a Haaretz editorial this week (April 2), there are currently 967 Palestinians in administrative detention in Israeli prisons. That is a lot of incarceration without trial. Jamal Niser is the oldest.

I implore those of you who will be singing “Dayenu” tonight – the first line of which is still going to be, If he had brought us out of Egypt, and not carried out judgments on them, it would have been enough for us: Please pause there and think of Jamal and the other 966. “Enough for us” – Dayenu – in Arabic is: Kafaa lana.

And so, in the immortal words of the poet: Fakr fi’lakharina.

Think of others.

About the Author
A native New Yorker, by profession a writer, editor, and translator, my passion after nearly forty years in Israel/Palestine is to explore how we might craft a better shared future by discarding the paradigm of enemies – an obsolete social design, now highly toxic. Read more in my book, No More Enemies, available on my website or from online booksellers.
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