Remember… this night is different

On Monday night, April 22, Jews worldwide will celebrate Pesach, an eight-day festival that commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. We will sit down to a meal, known as the seder, literally the order, and read from a book known as the Haggadah, literally meaning the telling. In Jewish tradition, the telling and the remembering of the past are burned into our DNA. We are commanded to tell, to remember, to tell your children.

This year when we have an unknown number of hostages still being held in dungeons in Gaza, the seder has a particular resonance.

At the beginning of the seder the youngest child asks the four questions, the totality of which is” why is this night different from all other nights” and various explanations are given. For every Jew sitting around the seder table this year, we will know exactly why this night is different from all others.

We are commanded to think of ourselves as having left Eygpt, something that most of us struggle with. But this year, when our hearts and minds are inextricably caught up in the tragedy that has enfolded not only the victims of the pogrom and the hostages, but also Jewry worldwide we know indeed why this night will be different from other nights.

It will be different for several reasons: because the hostages are captive, because the Jewish people are under attack in unprecedented waves not seen since the 30s and because the world has seemingly been turned upside down when people side with terrorists and accept  their word whilst doubting at best or denying outright what Israel has to say.

We live in a time when at Columbia university Jewish students  are threatened by pro Palestinian supporters who indeed  celebrate what Hamas did and call for the burning  down of Tel Aviv and the continuation of the attacks upon students , and when the Rabbi at Columbia tells the students to stay away. We live in a time when students at Melbourne university are asked to nominate a side and are photographed . The “Zionists” are told to stay away for their own safety.

We live in a time when blatant blood libels are spread about by monotonous regularity by the media, reckless as to their effect and their incitement.  We live in a time when Jews are blamed for things without media bothering to fact check. We live in a time when the media blames and attacks Israel without allowing for a contrary voice.

We live in a time when Israel and indeed Jews are fair game and anti semitism is no longer seen as something to be kept under the blanket but is allowed indeed celebrated.

And so when the Jews celebrate the seder and say the words that we all know so well “ that in every generation they rise up to destroy us” we know  very well to whom that refers today. The shadowy Sinwar who lives underground with who knows how many hostages being used as human shields, is the modern day Pharoah, Haman or Hitler. He seeks the destruction of the Jews and is being aided and abetted by the hapless West which  is too spineless to support Israel unequivocally in its self defence.  We read of Turkey hosting Hamas as if they are celebrities. We read of endless Hamas supporting rallies and social media posts. We read of virulent anti semitism spewing out from the sewers of X and Instagram and now on university campuses.

Those of us who know our history watch with shock and horror and wonder what and who will be next .

We know that it might start with us but it won’t end with us.

The word “remember” is one that is engrained within Jewish tradition.  It appears many times within the liturgy and on a few times a year we remember our dead with the prayer “yizkor”, literally, to remember.  We remember because we have to. We remember because we cannot afford to forget. We remember because not to remember allows you to forget.

We remember that for over 2000 years we have been persecuted and still it continues.  And while we thought, for a brief moment of close to 80 years , that we could relax a little and not remember so much, or perhaps even forget, we know now that that was a mirage, a shimmering mirage that turned out to be a well of hatred.

And so we remember. And tell our children.

And we know why this night is different from all other nights.

About the Author
A family law barrister and amateur Holocaust historian with an interest in writing about what is important right now.
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