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Passover in Sderot

Passover in Sderot

Not every Jew in Israel will be reclining in freedom and security the coming Passover.

by Rabbi Avi Baumol

"How is this night different from all other nights? We were once slaves in Egypt, but God redeemed us, bringing us out from the land to freedom."

Jews from around the world will soon sing this familiar refrain, as we have done at Passover Seders throughout the ages. During the reading of the Haggadah, we will solemnly recount the pain, humiliation and suffering endured by our people in Egypt, but we will also rejoice at the miraculous turn of events -- the sudden salvation, redemption, and freedom. Symbolically, we eat bitter herbs, but quickly transition to the sweetness of the wine and charoset and then recline to show that we are as safe and secure as kings in a palace.

But there are some who will not share our sense of security this year. These people, although they live in the homeland of the Jewish people, will not be singing joyful songs, or reclining in freedom like royalty this coming Passover. These are the citizens of the city of Sderot.

The Israeli city, which borders the recently declared autonomous Palestinian region of Gaza, is victim to an average of 2-3 rocket strikes daily. Sirens which notify residents of an impending attack can only give an advance warning of 15 seconds. That is all the time that separates between life and death in Sderot.

The residents of Sderot will be confined to their homes, in running distance of a shelter, and parents will have to convince their children of the merits of celebrating the holiday of freedom, when they themselves do not feel free at all.

Guy Nagar is one such citizen. He, his wife and two children have been living in Sderot for the past six years. They came as part of a group of young idealistic Jews who wanted to integrate into a city which reflected a cross section of Jews in order to influence and be influenced. To live with Jews from different countries and backgrounds, but share common goals and responsibilities.

Guy works for the Orthodox Union in Israel which provides social, educational and Jewish programming to thousands of people all over the country. He and his wife operate a branch of "Makom Balev" -- an institution that provides much needed social programs for underprivileged children. Sadly, enrollment increased exponentially when children began to suffer from the psychological affects of Kasaam missile attacks.

Guy and his wife were shocked when they heard their child's first words. They were not "Abba" or "Ima," but "Red, Red, Alarm, alarm..."

Guy struggles and questions, he has moments where he mulls over the idea of leaving with his wife and children to a safer environment. But then he collects his thoughts and says that he will not retreat. In his own way, he will stay and fight.

There is a dark irony for the citizens of Sderot between this year's Passover and the one thousands of years ago which we commemorate. The pinnacle of the Passover experience was the exodus from Egypt, when each family had to pack up and leave the only home they knew and never look back. Today, each family musters up the courage to stay put, finds the inner strength to believe in the holiness of the Land of Israel, and to fight for the right to live freely in our Promised Land in peace.

Guy Nagar, his family and thousands of others in Sderot are standing firm and defending their city, knowing that retreat is only an invitation for those who seek us harm to terrorize the rest of the citizens of the State of Israel.

Click here to learn more about Sderot.

Published: March 24, 2007


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