Fiamma Nirenstein
Fiamma Nirenstein

Happy Pesach in troubled water

JERUSALEM — It’s a Passover over shadowed by terror. Yesterday, the horrible specter appeared again, this time on Israel’s border, in Egypt; Netanyahu immediately condemned the massacre of Coptic Christians, and wished, as already is the case between Israel and Egypt, for a strong alliance against terrorism.

The attack occurred for the Palms Sunday of the Christians and when in Israel occur the frantic preparations for the elaborate, demanding opening night of the Jewish Passover that began yesterday night and that for an entire week remembers, forsaking leavened bread, the flight of the Israelites from Egypt; the incredible courage that it takes to beat slavery by defying an enemy so much stronger than you like the Pharaoh; how much faith in miracles and in your own people is needed in order to survive when suffering and the loss of your loved ones threaten your will to live… well, this happened so many times in the Jewish people life, and so it’s so clear, as the “Aggadah” ask, to see the story that we read the Laila Seder as if what is described over there happen just to our self.

This time the terrorist attack hitted the Egyptians, who are there fore paying the price of Islamist hatred that has bloodied the world as from Sinai it is easy for Daesh after its many attacks on the army in the desert to move into cities where its easier to target civilians, especially when it comes to Coptic Christians.

The Copts are perhaps the oldest Christians in the world, their memories date back to the time of Emperor Claudius and it’s become routine to see them persecuted and massacred (as in December, when women and children were blown to bits at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo).

The hatred terrorists harbor for the Copts doesn’t usually make headlines. There’s a quisling-like habit to simply ignore its daily episodes just like the systematic murder of half a million Sunnis by Assad, and of course, like terrorism in Israel. An astonishing example: during the hours when the entire world rose up to condemn the attack in Stockholm that saw 4 killed, a Palestinian terrorist in the West Bank deliberately rammed his vehicle into two young Israeli soldiers: Elchai Teharlev, a 20 years old soldier on his way to bring to his friends a cup of coffee was killed, while another young guy was wounded. On Saturday, a police officer and two civilians were stabbed in Jerusalem.

In these last hours, the public has been warned, laconically, to be on high alert during Passover, both Jews and Christians are in danger, security forces are being deployed and entry by the Palestinian Authority blocked. Routine. Has there been any coverage in the European newspapers about the attacks in Jerusalem? Not at all: Israel, during this Passover of freedom once again stands alone.

Israel’s incredible technological and social achievements keep growing despite the fact problems continue to persist. While people stand in line at supermarkets that are all cleared of leavened food (from bread to pasta, cookies, and anything else that may contain flour), while houses are frantically cleaned and every crumb is removed, religious ladies go through each rice kernel one by one (my grandmother did it) in order to make sure that no leavening arises, and special pots and tableware substitute the regular ones.

This Country, which ranked 11th according to the UN’s 2017 World Happiness Report, (the Americans are number 14) has fought since its birth a great battle for survival against terrorism (which in recent years has peaked not only in Israel, but also abroad) and for the joy to partake in the incredible adventure of the Jewish state’s construction, which has led to the happiest episode in the life of the Jewish people since 70 AD, i.e. the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the diaspora and persecutions worldwide.

It’s a miraculous adventure notwithstanding, like the Aggadah reads, the fact that in any generation we see a new enemy raise against the Jewish people. But while in Israel an astonishing 44.4 percent of the population has either been a victim or has relatives or friends who have been victims of a terrorist attack during the first 19 months of the Second Intifada in 2002, in the middle of that period, while 92 percent of Israelis said they feared for themselves or their families, 76.6 percent said that “in any case we would know what to do” and 78.2 percent stated, “there will always be someone around ready to help in case of difficulty.”

It’s true: the sense of solidarity and quiet awareness of terrorism not as a random or episodic event but as some thing to be continually prepared for, both physically and morally, is the best reaction to having been under a terrorist siege for seventy years. Therefore Israel represents an example for all countries that have unfortunately begun to contend with its ugly face.

Israel’s borders are even more nervous during this Passover than usual: the terrorists on the Egyptian border, including Hamas, have seen the rise of a very dangerous term when Trump shook hands with Al Sisi and Jordan’s King Adbullah II, and immediately responded.

After the attack on his Sukhoijets, Assad’s behavior is now unpredictable. There fore, it’s not at all surprising that – as surveillance in the last few hours is enhanced and Netanyahu calls for international cooperation against terror – the boundaries of the Golan Heights have been reinforced while Hezbollah is undoubtedly agitated.
But even if they possess 100,000 missiles that are pointed at Israel while Hamas to the south holds the civilian population under fire this generation is the luckiest in Jewish history, and it feels so: around the table of the Passover “seder” in which the youngest child of the family sings the opening song, and then we all read together, we celebrate the fact of being able for the first time in history to fight and to carry out an extraordinary deterrence over our enemies despite the fact that Islamic hatred is more powerful than ever and the Palestinians continue to indoctrinate their people on destroying the Jews. Mah nishtanah? “What’s different?” asks every year the child who sings the opening song. Much has changed, truly a lot, in the history of the Jewish people.

Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal


This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (April 11, 2017)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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