Here we are again

Purim is over. The hangovers have almost worn off, the cellophane has been binned, the candies and wafers have been eaten or thrown away. The supermarkets are now lined with every type of bleach imaginable. As we approach Pesach, I wonder. Are we in a modern day exodus story? Is today’s Sinwar yesteryear’s Pharoah?

The Jewish people were in captivity. Moses cried for their release, but to no avail. And so the plagues began.
Blood. The double edged plague. Blood representing death and loss, and as we all remember, the great water shortage. Can a nation survive a water shortage? Surely if we cut off their water, they will release us? You would think that in a Middle Eastern, agricultural country, a threat to water would have sufficed to have Pharoah release the Jews. But alas, no. Pharoah had cisterns and store houses. He wasn’t personally threatened by a water shortage. So the answer came with confidence. I will not let them go.
Frogs. Signifying unbearable noise. Wherever you are, you will hear noises that make you non functional. Weeks of bombings, the noise never stopping. If you were a leader, would you give up your slaves to secure your people? You would. Not Pharoah. The slaves stay.
Lice. The impact of the lack of hygiene starts to take its toll on the nation of Egypt. The lack of hygiene that stems from the lack of water. Never mind. It’s the price my devoted nation will have to pay for my slaves. And no, I will not give them back.
Wild animals. On the loose. A terrorist with an RPG? A lion from the zoo roaming loose on the streets? Either way, not as worth solving as the slaves are worth keeping. You know the answer.
Pestilence. All sources of agricultural income gone. And don’t think you’ll be able to dine on them. You won’t. There will be no meat, there will be no feasts. Pharoah? Where are you? Will you let your people hunger over some Jewish slaves? Just let them go and life will resume. Undeterred, he refuses. The slaves stay.
Boils. The lack of sanitation continues.The Egyptians are suffering. They begin to question the interests of their beloved leader. Surely pharoah, our suffering means more to you than some Jewish captives? The pressure may be mounting, but nothing in him has stirred. Heart hardened, once again, he stands by his position.
Hail. Not just any hail. Huge hail with fire inside. It lands on you like a missile, bringing destruction in its wake. The only man who can stop the onslaught has run for cover. There is no hail in his underground jail. He remains unmoved by the plight of his own people whose homes have been destroyed. They are mine, these slaves. I am keeping them.
Locusts. Whatever the air incursion did not damage, the ground incursion will finish off. Armed forces will comb through street by street, sector by sector, finishing off what the missiles didn’t. Any comment pharoah? Yes. No. I will not let them go.
Darkness. No electricity. No fuel. How will a displaced nation manage? Pharoah? Just release the captives. Then all this will stop. No electricity you say? That’s okay, I have some in storage. I’m sure you guys will be fine. And anyway, you may not be okay, but I am. So no deal. If I’m okay, they stay with me.
And then, finally, comes the death of the first borns. And that gives pharoah pause for thought.
Because he himself was a first born.
Pharoah used his slaves. He used his nation. The pressure of the suffering of his people was not pressure at all. He did not care about them. He was as deaf to their cries as if he was, say, in a tunnel underground somewhere, unable to hear.
Pharoah, at least, had an excuse. GD had hardened his heart. But Pharoah, the symbol, was to become the prototype of the narcissistic dictator. The notion that a leader is responsible for the welfare of his people was not in his lexicon. Great leaders are those who will do anything for their nation’s survival. Great dictators will have their nation do anything for theirs. The only threat that moved him, was the threat to his own existence. The killing of the first borns would not have stopped him in his tracks, had he himself not been a first born. But now, the impact of the plagues had made its way to his personal terrain.
Pharoah. Sinwar. Two peas in a pod. The pain of their people is not leverage. In their world view, the people they lead are their self protective shields and shields take hits to protect the person hiding behind them. Join my cause, die for my Misson. Your suffering makes you a holy martyr. Sacrifice your pathetic little life for my cause. And what’s my cause? I am.
Will we learn from our history? The likes of Sinwar will only flinch from their position when they themselves are threatened. They claim holy mission, until it becomes personal. Then watch the resolve dissolve into cowardice. Sinwar is the leader of the nation that abducted the Jews and would not return them. Yet we find the precedent in history. His nation will contine to suffer and he will not budge an inch until the noose is on his neck.
Forget reason. Forget deals. Forget negotiation. You can’t pull on the heartstrings of a heartless man. Let the choice not be, free the slaves for the good of your nation. It didn’t work in ancient Egypt and it won’t work in modern day Gaza. The only ultimatum that means anything to him is free the slaves to save your own life. Find him. Only once his life is in the balance will his principles yield, like Pharoah’s did so many years before him.
Perhaps the clue to the freeing of our hostages has been hiding in the plain view of our nation’s history all along.
About the Author
Ilana Cowland is an educator, relationships coach, international lecturer and author of "The Moderately Anxious Everybody."
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