Bitter Sweet Passover in Hebron

April 24, 2014

3 min read

Pesach, Passover, is a special holiday. The redemption of our people, Am Yisrael, some 3,500 years ago. It serves as the foundation for our future, that is, the issues, such as being enslaved in Egypt, and the liberation from that bondage.

It has happened time and time again. Twice we suffered the destruction of our spiritual center, Jerusalem, were exiled from our land. And we returned. Jews lived quite comfortably in Spain for hundreds of years, only to be cruelly exiled, following a brutal inquisition. Ditto France, England and other countries. Ditto plus some, Germany of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Oppression and then triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds.

So too, Hebron, something of a microcosm of Israel, the state of Israel and the history of Israel.

Moments ago, prior to beginning this article, French and Spanish journalists questioned me about our return to Beit HaShalom. Speaking about our presence in Hebron, they said, ‘but this is ‘palestinian’ land.’

I stared at them, sort of smiling, not saying anything.

Then the statement was repeated, as a question.

“Look, where we are standing, this was bought by Jews in Hebron in 1807. The area behind us was lived on, as a Jewish neighborhood, from the middle of the 1500s by Jews who’d been exiled from Spain in 1492. And Jews lived here for hundreds of years before that. So is it ‘palestinian property?’ I think not, I think it is Jewish property.”

“But the ‘palestinians’ and international NGOs claim that the building, Beit HaShalom was stolen – the papers were forged…?”

“Right, except that two Israeli courts, including the Supreme Court, ruled that the building was legally purchased. If they had ruled against us, you would say they were correct. Now that they’ve ruled for us, you say they’re wrong?!”

So it goes, on and on.

Pesach in Hebron is always special. Thousands, no, tens of thousands, flock to the city, visiting Ma’arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and other fascinating sites in the city.

Sweet. The story of redemption.

But it wasn’t entirely sweet.

About an hour before the Seder, the beginning of the holiday, one of my sons called me, asking very abruptly, “What’s happening at Tarqumia?”

Tarqumia is a known checkpoint, about 10 kilometers west of Hebron.

“Don’t know, why?”

“Check it – there was a terror attack. Someone was killed’ Others injured.”

Bitter. Very Bitter.

I didn’t know until the next day who had been killed. I found out, almost a week later that some of my friends from Hebron were at that very site, where the shooting occurred, literally minutes after the attack.

Such events are never pleasant. But on the eve of a holiday, the celebration of redemption, knowing that a few families were having a very very difficult time rejoicing, knowing that more children were added to the list of orphans, it’s not a happy way to start a festival.

A big dark cloud covered the light of the sun.

We knew that the attack would influence peoples’ decision to visit Hebron in the coming days. Understandably. Yet, some 25,000 people were able to overcome, letting their feet do the talking, saying, as Jews have exclaimed for thousands of years, nothing can stand in our way. This is our home, this is our land, this is our city. Here we are, to prove it.

It is quite well known that during the Passover Seder we eat Matza, a symbol of our liberation from Egypt. Perhaps it is less known, or perhaps, less understood, that we also eat bitter herbs, in remembrance of the harsh conditions we had to live under in Egypt. Not only do we eat them, but we also say a blessing over them.

It should be easily comprehended why we bless the consumption of Matza. But bitter herbs?

Except that the bitterness was part of the redemption. Only after experiencing the bitterness of slavery in Egypt could we appreciate the sweetness of liberation.

Additionally, the ‘bitter herbs’ of days gone by were also a preparation, for the acrimony we would continue to experience, throughout the ages. We thank G-d, that He has given us the inner strength, an almost unimaginable faith, allowing us to overcome, to overcome, to overcome.

Hadas Mizrachi, now the widow, formerly the wife of Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrachi, a short time after the murder:

“I’ll be strong for the children, because that’s what Baruch would have wanted. We should also be thankful for the miracle that my children and I survived. We will stay strong and God willing, my children will grow and succeed, and that will be my victory against the terrorists,” said the mother, whose condition is defined as moderate. “I have two bullet wounds and a fractured rib.”

During the Seder, we eat the Matza and the Bitter Herbs separately, and then put them together, sort of a sandwich.

Oppression and redemption, Bitter and sweet. Tears of festivity, tears of mourning. Baruch Shehechianu, Blessing the good – Baruch Dayan HaEmet, Blessing the bad. Matzah and Bitter Herbs.

Such was our Passover this year, in Hebron.

Reprinted with author’s permission

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