The events that led to Passover unfolded centuries before the advent of Islam and its conquest of the Middle East, when the ancient Israelites were once slaves in a land where the natives were polytheists, and the language was Egyptian, as were the ruling elite. Pharaoh enslaved the Jewish people, the Israelites, until Moses led them to their escape into the desert, where they were forced to withstand 40 challenging years on their way to freedom. But freedom they did find.
As a guide to reliving this story, a millennia old annual tradition among the Jewish people, The J Street Haggadah presents, “Fifteen Steps to Freedom.” If only our ancestors enjoyed the simplicity of the J Street Haggadah approach, well, we certainly wouldn’t be struggling with the Israel that we have today.
So, as an ode to the cooperative alliances (examples here and here) between J Street’s university branch and the erroneously named Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), I offer a few suggestions for a hybrid Haggadah, in the spirit of J Street’s current one.
Kadesh of the first cup needs very little adjustment from the J Street Haggadah version, which astutely points out that, “The shorter the occupation lasts, the better for us . . .” It doesn’t matter that Israelis know that too many Palestinians have been indoctrinated with hatred and historical misinformation and have internalized that a violent death during jihad is cashed in for an eternity of paradise (and lifelong financial rewards for family members from the Palestinian Authority).
The sJp Street Haggadah, just like it’s J Street predecessor, should communicate that those facts don’t justify such restrictive security measures. What Israelis know is not as important as what the writers of the J Street Haggadah know which is, “our people have power,” (page 6).
The J Street Haggadah communicates that Israeli Jews are the source of the problem even though Jews were living in Israel (and pre-modern day Israel) for thousands of years and were constant (unprovoked) victims of attacks, most recently by Islamists in the 1834 Looting of Tzfat, 1920 Nebi Musa Riots, 1921 Jaffa Riots, 1929 Hebron Massacre, 1948 independence attacks, on and on and the more recent jihadist bombings that took innocent lives in pizza parlors, bus stops, celebration halls, etc. These are just small details that don’t disprove J Street’s assertion that Israel is at fault for the conflict.
Just stick with the repetition of the simple demand, “end the occupation.”
J Street Haggadah’s washing of the hands could use some adjustments for the sJp Street hybrid. Part of it reads, “ . . . we [Jews] must wash away our bitterness and resentment, our exhaustion, narrow-mindedness and cynicism,” because only then can we begin “to reconnect with a world of expansive possibility.”
No doubt J Street counts on their readers being ignorant of Israeli global connectivity in the form of life-saving missions like MASHAV, SACH, United Hatzalah and IsraAID; and the Abraham Accords, and being unaware of the “bitterness, resentment and narrowmindedness” of Israel’s enemies. But, compared to some of the other parts of the J Street Haggadah, this part doesn’t obsess enough over Israel being the sole problem in the “Arab-Israeli conflict.”
J Street might insist that “only” Judea, Samaria and part of Jerusalem as an "occupation" while SJP considers those and Haifa, Tel Aviv and all of Israel as an "occupation". To address both of their opinions they can generically add in this urchatz section, “we must wash ourselves from the occupation.”
The Four Questions:
The J Street Haggadah asks, “How can we begin working toward justice for others?” in which “a portion of our people perpetuate injustice against the Palestinians.”
Our sJp Street Haggadah will be effective enough keeping that line as long as readers are ignorant as to the history and reality of the conflict, the horrific ways the countries that started the wars against Israel currently treat the Palestinian Arabs in their midst, that the United Nations (through UNWRA) keeps Palestinian Arabs, exclusively, as perpetual refugees – a burden uniquely handed down to only their descendants, and the ideology that has driven the PalestinianArabs to reject peace repeatedly, to reject forming a never before had country next to the Jews with the aim of having one instead of the Jews.
The hybrid Haggadah should add more difficult questions. For example,
“Why do a portion of our population [Jews] try to stop kites and balloons from traveling as far as the air will take them once some Palestinians release them? How can we expect to have joy, when we stop such simple joys from others?” Most readers won’t know that Palestinian jihadists have been floating colorful balloons and kites designed so that when they land, the incendiary devices they attach will burn a curious child attracted to the playful object, or set trees, fields and farms on fire. Have a drawing of a Palestinian flying a kite and an Israeli soldier frowning nearby, about to take it away. (End the occupation.)
The Four Sons:
The wise and troubled children of the J Street Haggadah know very well how awful their Israeli counterparts are. And, the simple (minded) child says, “I love Israel. What’s wrong with that?” Well done J Street. But, the sJp Street Haggadah would be wise to plug J Street’s new propaganda tour here. It’s free advertising. As a NYT’s op-ed reports, “ . . . the J Street tour seemed increasingly incompatible with Birthright’s goal of hooking young American Jews on Israel. . . . By dinnertime, two participants said they were reconsidering their belief in a Jewish state.”
Brilliant. SJP alone couldn’t have done a better job of turning Jews from Israel without dedicated help from the self-proclaimed Zionists of J Street. Just make sure that the tour doesn’t include the history of jihadists attacking Jews before Israel initiated the protective measures, like the security wall which went up a little more than 20 years ago in response to incessant bombings that tore apart civilians.
And, make sure that the tour doesn’t connect participants with Israeli Arabs who are grateful to live in their country, Israel, and thrive as professionals and business owners, or show how the BDS movement really harms Palestinians even though it just targets Jews.
But, do give the J Street tour a plug. From the words of a recent participant (again in the NYT’s piece), “I came in here a very ardent Zionist . . . Yet, coming here [via the J Street tour], I’m starting to doubt whether a two-state solution is possible — and whether Zionism is even worth pursuing anymore.” Wow – what a team! J Street and SJP, together, are so effective at aiming to absolve Jews from the burden of having even one of the tiniest countries in the world. End the occupation.
The Yachatz section makes mention that Israel is plentiful in size (it’s one-twelfth the size of the UK) and yet “Israel grabs and settles territory.” No mention that Jews have been returning to Judea and Samaria, part of where Jordan destroyed over 50 synagogues and expelled all the Jews in 1948, a year after Jordan, itself, also part of the British Mandate for Palestine, became a country.
The sJp Street Haggadah shouldn’t mention those things either. Just stick to the argument that Israel, which is about one tenth of one percent of the Middle East, and much smaller in relation to the rest of the Islamic world, is plenty of land for the Jews – and even too much.
So, since J Street (and U) and SJP know that Jews are just not satisfied with the abundance we have, be realistic and replace Dayenu with, No Dayenu. For example:
-We could have lived as a protected people, in the land now known as Israel, under the Ottoman Empire (despite their cruel deportation of the Jews of Tel Aviv in 1917 – hey, most made it back alive when the British took control), but, no dayenu
-We had an independent Israel for almost an entire day in 1948 before being attacked by surrounding Islamic armies of mostly newly formed countries. We could’ve been satisfied with our own one Jewish country for that time, almost a whole day, but no dayenu
-When the Islamic armies surrounded Israel with plans to annihilate the country again, in 1967, we could have enjoyed our 19 years as a sovereign people and let the Arab armies divide the land among themselves, no doubt leaving a generous slice to form a new country for the Palestinians, but no dayenu
-Since Israel allowed the Islamic Waqf to control the Temple Mount, some Jews have been complaining about not being allowed to pray on their holiest site. The Temple Mount is for Islamic prayer only. Jews can pray elsewhere, no dayenu
-When the Israelis withdrew her military and all her people from Gaza in 2005 and gifted millions of dollars’ worth of greenhouses to the Palestinians, Israel created the Iron Dome to stop the daily barrage of rockets Hamas fired. Sometimes Israel uses precision bombing to destroy Hamas military weapons because the Iron Dome and bomb shelters isn’t enough, no dayenu
-If Jews would stop trying to buy land from Palestinians who want to sell, then Palestinians would not be imprisoned or put to death by the PA for their crime of selling property to Jews. But Jews behave as if they should be entitled to buy property from anyone who wants to sell it to them. Jews have enough, but no dayenu
A suggested closing/conclusion to the Seder
History shows that if we did not show our love for Jerusalem so much, no one else would want it. No one else made it a capital except the Jewish people and now the Arab descendants of the British Mandate of Palestine want it as their capital. So, let us stop yearning for Jerusalem – it’s not like the Islamic Waqf allows us to pray on our holiest site anyway.
Naturally, the sJp Street Haggadah would close with a statement that would most accurately represent their ideals and previous actions . . . Next year, in Al Quds.
Faith Quintero is the author of Loaded Blessings, a family saga that alternates between Inquisition era Spain and modern-day Israel. It’s among the Federalist’s top books of 2019 list and a Montaigne Medal finalist for the Eric Hoffer awards. The Montaigne Medal is an additional distinction, awarded to "the most thought-provoking books." Follow Faith Quintero on Twitter.