Seder Topic: the Undemocratic Promised Land

The promise of freedom is at the heart of the Passover seder. Freedom is not merely the liberation from slavery but goes to the quality of our lives. This year, challenges to freedom plague our world and our people. Will your seder stick only to the 3,500-year-old story or fast forward to the present-day reality?

Ultimately, Passover directs us toward freedom. I doubt that the final phase of the Exodus has been reached if democracy in the promised land is in peril. We who love Israel are concerned about its recent descent toward autocracy.

Perhaps the most dangerous part of Netanyahu’s power grab is the rupture in Israeli society. Most concerning to me is that the hiloni (secular Israelis) are feeling disenfranchised. These are the men and women who defend Israel in the Army and are now hesitating to show up for reserve duty. Others are contemplating leaving Israel. Is Moses’ mission a failure if leading our people out of slavery to freedom brings us to an undemocratic Israel?

The persistent hope of the Exodus story is at the seder’s end when we say, “Next year in Jerusalem.”  Jerusalem may no longer represent our hopes for human rights and freedom.

From a distance, we have supported Israel when under attack. We have yearned for a resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians. But we have not yet dealt with the prospect of an undemocratic Israel.

Jews have been praying for a return to Israel, as a place of refuge, hope, and freedom for Jews. Today, our prayers must turn to protect the democratic Israel we love.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame