This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Among Jews, the hoopla surrounding the upcoming Passover holidays continues as it does every year. This, despite the seemingly unusual circumstances of celebrating our liberation while oppressing another people. Sad to say, however, our oppression of the Palestinian people has become the normal state of Jewish affairs. So why not write endlessly about Passover recipes and whether men have now taken on some of the Passover preparation?
Some Jews of Conscience believe that announcing the need for liberation is even more important because of the normalization of the Israeli occupation. Striking out against our own oppression as unacceptable is imperative. The 2015 Jewish Voice for Peace Haggadah is one such way for Jews of Conscience to observe Passover, though I still find their 2012 offering superior.
Telling are the translation of the Ten Plagues of the traditional Passover story in contemporary terms as the Ten Plagues of Israeli Occupation. The ultimate reversal. Once we were enslaved. Now we enslave others.
This year Easter coincides with Passover and, to my mind, Christians of Conscience have another chance to take note of their own history. Some Christians of Conscience celebrate Passover as well. Perhaps the Ten Plagues in the Christian observance should be translated into the Ten Plagues of Christendom.
As with Passover for Jews, the triumphal language surrounding Palm Sunday and Easter should be toned down. Remnants of Christendom continue apace in Christian Zionism and beyond. Some Christians are doing just that, portraying Jesus as a prophetic figure who enters Jerusalem in defiance of the Roman occupation and is crucified by the Romans for the sin of suggesting a way of life beyond occupation. It is curious, though, how the most obvious aspect of Jesus confronting the contemporary occupation of Jerusalem is highlighted while Jesus’ Jewishness is barely acknowledged and rarely, if ever, emphasized. Downplaying Jesus’ Jewishness is a political and religious story in itself.
This brings us to a most telling lacuna in the celebration of Passover and Easter, even when both are claimed in a progressive direction. Most Jewish and Christian religionists leave to others the lack of historical verification for the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt or Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and subsequent Passion narrative. Many historians believe it unlikely that either happened as told, if at all.
Nonetheless, the Jewish and Christian traditions contain resources for resistance to unjust power. Yet another question remains: How many more Passover and Easter seasons will Jews and Christians of Conscience observe until our dissent rings hollow even to ourselves?
Netanyahu’s disavowal of a two state solution and his warnings about Arab hordes are already being enhanced by the US presidential election focus on Israel and the Jewish community. The Republicans are way too obvious but during Passover and Easter don’t forget to check out Hillary Clinton’s and Elizabeth Warren‘s cozying up to the Jewish establishment’s occupation enabling powers that be.
No doubt, all of our presidential hopefuls will be attending Passover Seders with their well-connected donor base. And Easter services, too. Which tells me that “Next Year in Jerusalem” is likely to be more of the same.