Yetziat mitzrayim…yetziat aza: The Exodus from Egypt and the Exodus from Gaza

Where shall I begin?  My cousin Hava lives with her husband, two young children and infant baby boy in Mishmeret, only 50 meters away from the home that was bombed by rockets from Gaza. She says that they did not hear the warning siren but only the loud boom of the rocket when it fell and knocked her and her husband out of bed. They grabbed the sleeping children and ran to safety in the mamad (the security room).

My cousin Tal completed his military service this week. Happy are his parents that he has safely returned from the Gaza border.

My cousin Yonatan is now stationed directly on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza and I,  together with his parents and grandparents, pray daily for his welfare and his safe and speedy return home.

Forty years ago we signed a peace treaty with Egypt, a peace which has endured.  Under terms of the treaty Israel had to return all of the Sinai to Egypt. Since 1967 the Gaza Strip was occupied and controlled by Egypt but after the Begin-Sadat peace treaty, Egypt gladly relinquished control of Gaza and the Strip became Israel’s biggest headache.

In a few weeks, Jews across the globe will be celebrating more than two thousand years of yetziat mitzrayim… the exodus from 430 years of slavery in Egypt. That major event is a pinnacle in the history of Israel and the Jewish people. On Passover we give thanks to God “asher hotziyanu mi mitzrayim”, who took us out of the land of Egypt .  It was the birth of Jewish freedom.

A much later exodus occurred in our lifetimes only a few short years ago. It happened when Israeli military forces evacuated from the Gaza Strip leaving the vast enclave to the Palestinian Authority which subsequently was overcome by Hamas terrorists.

The difference between the two historic exoduses is clear. The first, the exodus from Egypt, was commanded by the Divine promise of freedom. God had commanded Moses to lead his people out of the land of captivity across the vast desert en route to the Promised Land which Moses never entered.

The second exodus, the recent one from Gaza, was the action of the Israeli military forces. It was not divinely inspired. At least not according to the reports of the IDF commanders.

The first exodus was a blessing. The second exodus was a mistake.

Had our forces remained in Gaza we would have a strong control over Hamas and the Islamic Jihad with fewer deaths and less destruction.

The Egyptians understood the dangers in controlling a restless piece of property. The Israelis did not.

Now we are faced with a dilemma, one which will be decided by the newly-elected prime minister. Should we retake control of Gaza? Should our military march in with full force? Are we prepared to remain there for an unknown period of time?

Hamas says it does not want an escalation leading to a full-fledged war with Israel and Israel prefers not to go to war with Gaza.  But the facts on the ground speak differently than the words against open war.

It is a battle between  two elements on the Passover seder table.  The charoset and the maror.

Charoset consists of chopped apples, ground nuts, wine and cinnamon. Its taste is sweet and pleasant.

Maror is the bitter herb…. Very bitter indeed on our tongue.

Bitter and sweet representing life itself.  We experience bitter things in our lives but we also experience the sweet delicacies in our lives. We taste the bitter and the sweet. And in our history we have experienced both.

Since our exodus from the land of the Pharaohs, Egypt and Israel have become friends. Cool friends but friends nevertheless in peace with one another.

We are particularly grateful to the good efforts of the Egyptian government and its military who strive diligently to end the hostility with Gaza and to find a way leading to an enduring cease-fire.

The exodus from Egypt was thousands of years ago. The exodus from Gaza was recent. What we want desperately is a yetziat mi sinah… an exodus from hatred.

We want more charoset and less maror.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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