Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Note: Unfortunately, this is the seventh year in a row that I feel compelled to circulate this call (the text is updated.....) best wishes for a happy and peaceful pesach, Gil Troy

Once again, during this year's seders, we will celebrate our joyous holiday of liberation with heavy hearts. Even as we revel in our freedom as Jews in the modern world, even as we marvel at Israel 's strength and tenacity in the wake of a terrorist onslaught, too many of our brothers and sisters in Israel are in pain. This year, in particular, as we think of three Israeli hostages and their families, truly in a Mitzraim, in dire straits, and as we think of more than one hundred civilians and soldiers murdered this summer, we must rise to the challenge to reclaim our symbols, to remember our losses, to reaffirm our commitment to Israel, to the Jewish people, and to a true peace.

In the bloody, unnecessary war begun when the Palestinians turned away from negotiations toward violence, too many died, too many have been injured, on both sides. And too many seders now have empty chairs - missing husbands, fathers, brothers, sons; missing wives, mothers, sisters, daughters.

The power of the seder - which remains one of the most popular of Jewish ceremonies - comes from its ritualization of memory. It is a most primal, most sensual, most literal, of services. The seder plate - with its representations of the mortar used in building, the charoset, and of the tears shed by the slaves, the salt water - helps us visualize the trauma of slavery.

The physical acts of reclining, of eating special foods, of standing to greet Elijah the prophet, help us feel the joy of Yetziat Mitzrayim, of leaving Egypt . And, in an affirmation of the importance of peoplehood, we mark this special moment not as individuals but as a community.

In that spirit, we cannot proceed with business as usual during these difficult times. We must improvise a new ritual that marks our present pain, that illustrates our vital connection with Israel and with Israelis today. Let each of us, as we gather at our seders, intrude on our own celebrations by leaving one setting untouched, by having one empty chair at our table.

Let us take a moment to reflect on our losses from these terrible six-and-a-half years, for even as stability has returned, terror attempts continue, freshly dug graves pockmark the Holy Land , and the mourning for those lost persists. And as we reflect, let us not just remember the dead as hundreds of nameless and faceless people, but let us personalize them. Let us take the time to find out the name of one victim of the current conflict, one Jew who cannot celebrate this year's holiday, one family in mourning.

Let us call out the names of Gilad Shalit, a 19-year-old with a shy smile, kidnapped by Hamas on the Gaza border in July; and that of Ehud Goldwasser, a 31-year-old engineer, and Eldad Regev, a 26-year-old pre-law student, kidnapped by Hezbollah just south of Lebanon. "This year we won't celebrate Pesach," Gilad's father Noam has said. "Pesach is about freedom, and we don't have that in our hearts. We want Gilad to return from imprisonment to freedom. It's been nine months, and we're not giving up."

Let us call out the name of Yaniv Bar-On, the 20-year-old son of a South African father and a Canadian mother, ambushed while trying to save Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev from Hezbollah's clutches, of Roi Klein, 31, a father of two, who jumped on a grenade crying "Shma Yisrael," Hear O' Israel, sacrificing his life to save his troops from certain death, and of Omer Pesachov, 7, and his grandmother, Yehudit Itzkovich, 58, who fled Nahariya one morning at the start of this summer's war, only to be bombed in Moshav Miron later that evening as the family prepared to welcome the Shabbat, the Sabbath.

Remembering earlier victims, let us call out the name of Benny Avraham, age 20, one of three young Israelis murdered by Hezbollah in a failed kidnapping in October 2000, whose body was kept frozen as the sadistic terrorists toyed with the emotions of the three grieving families - and people of conscience throughout the world.

Let us call out the name of Koby Mandell, age 13, a young American immigrant brutally killed in May, 2001, whose father, Rabbi Seth Mandell, talks about the empty seat at his Shabbat table and shares the pain of watching other boys grow up, watching their voices deepen, their shoulders broaden, their gaits quicken, even as his son lies dead.

Let us call out the names of Ernest and Eva Weiss, aged 80 and 75, residents of Petach Tikvah who survived Nazi concentration camps only to be slaughtered while sitting down for the Pesach Seder at the Park Hotel exactly five years ago, Pesach, 2002.

Let us call out the names of Maryam Attar, 27, Kamar Abu Hamed, 12, Abigail Leitel, 14, Mordechai Hersko, 41, and his son Tom Hershko, 15, a Muslim, a Druze, a Baptist, and two Jews, among the 17 murdered in Haifa just over four years ago on March 5, 2003.

And as we condemn modern-day Pharoahs in Iran and elsewhere, as we recoil from the worldwide scourge of anti-Semitism this terrorism also unleashed, let us call out the names of Ilan Halimi, the 23-year-old French Jew cellphone salesman kidnapped, tortured and murdered in a Parisian suburb by anti-Semitic thugs last year, and of Daniel Pearl, the 38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped, then murdered, in Pakistan almost exactly four years earlier.

As we call out these names, let us vow to do what we can to bring the three hostages home. As we call out these names, let us commit to some action, to embrace the families of the victims - the thousand who died and the nearly ten thousand who were injured. As we call out these names, let us commit to building a friendship with Israel and Israelis which is not just about politics, and not solely about mourning and memory.

And as we call out these names, unlike too many of our enemies, let us not call for vengeance, let us not call for more bloodshed. Instead, as we mourn, let us hope; as we remember the many lives lost during this crazy and pointless war, let us pray ever more intensely for a just and lasting peace.

For more Infomation visit:

Information about many of the Israelis killed in the current violence can be found at
the Israeli Foreign Ministry's Web site:

Click on
Terrorism -- Terror since 2000 - In Memory of the Victims of Palestinian Violence
and Terrorismn.

Ideas about how to help families of victims can be found at

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and the author of
"Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today."

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