Michael Rosental Guzman
Int. Relations and Jewish Advocacy.

Once again leaving Egypt

Moïse recevant les Tables de la Loi. Marc Chagall, 1966.
Moïse recevant les Tables de la Loi. Marc Chagall, 1966.

Every person I know who is somehow personally related to this war is heartbroken, and that’s completely natural and expected. We are unfortunately living through very challenging times, maybe the hardest times for the Jewish People since the Shoah and the hardest times for Palestinians as well. For starters, the traumas of October 7th are still deeply felt, and the immense rise of antisemitism worldwide only makes matters worse.  Additionally, there is no prospect of a deal to bring home the hostages, and the tension in the North and with Iran is at a critical point.

On the other hand, the situation in Gaza is also a disaster. The war in the strip can only be compared in recent years with the battle of Mosul, which left between 8,000 and 40,000 civilians dead. The humanitarian situation is heartbreaking, with levels of destruction and hunger everywhere that can only be seen in Sudan. And while the Hamas-run Health Ministry’s numbers have been heavily criticized by reputable research, if the figures are close to reality, then we are witnessing one of the most devastating wars for children in the last century, which for me remains one of the hardest parts of this war. Every human with a heart and a moral compass should be worried about it.

It’s completely normal for some of us to feel overwhelmed by everything going on. How are we expected to keep going when our brothers and sisters remain captive in Gaza? When innocent people die every day because their leaders can’t reach a deal to stop this madness? These questions have kept me awake more than once in recent months, and the one place I’ve found comfort is the Jewish tradition.

We are entering the holiday of Pesach, the starting point of our people as a nation, the night we remember our liberation. During Pesach, we are commanded to feel as though we are personally leaving Egypt once again, because when Hashem took our forefathers out, He also took us. This approach to history and memory, this way of constructing our sense of identity as a nation, has sustained us for 3,000 years. It was us—literally us—who transitioned from slaves to free people. It was us who went to Mount Sinai, and it was us who entered the land of Israel and built the Temple.

Now, we are once again in Egypt, trapped in a situation completely out of our control, enslaved by our emotions, and hoping for a miracle to happen. Let this Seder remind us that we will once again leave Egypt. Let this Seder remind us that hope is at the heart of our identity. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote that throughout history, when human beings have sought hope, they have found it in the Jewish story: ‘Judaism is the religion, and Israel the home, of hope.’ Since then, we have built our spiritual tradition around the Messiah and the beginning of the Messianic era. This attachment to hope, this annual commandment to leave Egypt and return to Jerusalem, has sustained us through more than any other nation on earth.

Right now, in this context, where does our hope come from? That’s a question I can only answer from a personal perspective.

The source of my hope is the resilience of the Jewish people, who have endured 2,000 years of discrimination, libels, and genocides, yet remain a joyful nation.

The source of my hope is those Palestinian children who, after seeing their homes reduced to rubble, still decided to celebrate Eid, play with an improvised swing, and continue living. Their resilience shows their love for life, and those who love life despise eternal war.

The source of my hope is my friends and community, who have supported all of us since the beginning of the war.

The source of my hope is Maoz, who, after losing his parents in the October 7th attacks, stood up and said, ‘We must not take pride in the moral collapse that celebrates blood, blood, and more blood in an endless cycle of vengeance.’

The source of my hope is Amira and Ibrahim, two Palestinians who, after witnessing all the destruction in the past six months, chose to stand up and promote a different way by hosting a podcast and having important conversations.

The source of my hope is my Palestinian friends who texted me on October 7th, and we promised each other that friendship must be greater than the hate bred by war.

The source of my hope is those living in an environment filled with hatred and a desire for vengeance, yet still chose to uphold their moral standards and strive to change their surroundings.

And finally, and most importantly, the source of my hope is Jewish tradition. This vast pool of history and knowledge has helped me navigate these challenging months. The source of my hope is in the Haggadah of Pesach, which commands me to feed those who are hungry; the poems of Hannah Senesh, which remind me to always see the humanity in others; the paintings of Chagall; The poems of Dylan and Leonard Cohen; and in the stories of Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman. The source of my hope is in the songs of Avichai Hollander and Tuna, the Tehillim of King David, and the promise of Zechariah: ‘There shall yet be elderly men and elderly women sitting in the streets of Jerusalem…’

The source of my hope is the knowledge that we have left Egypt thousands of times before, and we will do so again. And next year we will be with all the hostages home, with a rebuilt Gaza and a revived peace process, and with woman and children filled with joy running in the streets of Jerusalem.

לשנה הבאה בירושלים

About the Author
Michael Rosental Guzman is an International Relations Student and a member of the Jewish Community in Colombia. He is part of the Youth Network of the Latin American Jewish Congress and part of the IMPACT Fellowship of the Bnei Brith.
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