This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
If Passover cannot really be celebrated without Palestinians being free – and since Palestinian freedom isn’t on the immediate or even long-range horizon and ironically Passover has become a time for punishing Palestinians for asserting their right to be free – should we suspend our celebration of Passover?
I doubt I am alone in thinking these thoughts on the first day of Passover. But, then, Easter is in the air as well. Should Christians be thinking the same blasphemous thoughts about their own holy days?
If we applied the refusal to celebrate liberation or salvation in an unliberated, unsaved world to religious rituals across the board, the suspension should be centuries, perhaps millennia old. This as Pope Francis is hailed for his impromptu remarks and selfies in St. Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday and as he addresses or further deflects the Church’s pedophile crisis, depending on one’s viewpoint. Of course, as with Easter, Francis has his own (checkered) Argentine past. But, then, if the Catholic Church hadn’t been in bed with all sorts of ancient and modern tyrants would it have become the “universal” church it is today?
So Christians, like Jews, should beware of the Passover applied critique. Our Israeli thugs who pose as political leaders aren’t far behind you. Or are they racing ahead of our chastened Christian brothers and sisters?
Islam cannot escape the holy hypocrisy test either. Like Christianity, Islam is another “universal” faith spread and maintained through all sorts of empire intrigue. The suffering in Syria comes to mind and though Syria, like Israel-Palestine, isn’t primarily a religious conflict, leaving the various factions of Islam out of the Syria equation is turning our back on primal identities.
Some argue that Passover and Easter should go on regardless precisely because we don’t want the religious authorities of any stripe hijacking the holy days of our traditions. This makes sense. Why let them take our traditions for their empire ride? Unfortunately, their empire is our empire as well, since most Jews in America and Israel benefit from these empires. Many Christians and Muslims do as well.
Passover is a tangle. Easter is a tangle. Jews of Conscience and Christians of Conscience share common ground here. Christians are accomplished empire travelers. As a whole Jews have only recently been invited to the Christian empire table. Today during Passover/Easter we feast on injustice together. How marvelous our interfaith solidarity is!
Yet together we also oppose injustice. We should recognize this as more than coincidence. Seder meal. Easter Eucharist. They’re so closely tied in history that without Passover, Easter wouldn’t have a heritage to stand on. Exercising conscience together should we call for a joint moratorium on Passover/Easter?
Like a union picket line. A Passover/Easter picket line. See who crosses it.
Even for Jews and Christians of Conscience, we might want to cross the freedom celebration line. The comfort of these holy days is heart-felt and habits of the heart aren’t easy to give up. In this alienating age, can’t Passover and Easter be spared?
Think about these holy days, what they represent historically and what they have become. We have come far from the narratives of Egyptian slaves struggling for liberation and the Roman Empire crucifying a Jewish rabble-rouser who triumphs over empire power. Bourgeois reality consumes everything.
Of course, we don’t want to give up our privilege or struggle too much for others. Who will sacrifice for us?
Jerusalem might be an interesting place to begin in our Passover/Easter refusal. After all, is there a more (un)holy city so precious to the monotheist religions that pretends to holiness? Or would a narrative rendering of Jerusalem that refuses to cross into celebration be replicating the old Passover/Easter eschatological line in the sand?
We think that if we just keep embodying the true spirit of our separate holy days we might overcome the joint inheritance that continues the cycle of violence and atrocity.
Our hope hasn’t worked yet. In fact, suffering on the ground is getting worse.
Instead of these important, perhaps irresolvable questions, we are treated to the lowbrow of culinary cuisine – Passover and fried artichoke hearts which goes back to the now no doubt gentrified Jewish ghetto in Rome. How picturesque former ghettos are, especially when new ones are being created by their collective heirs.
Will the Pope travel there to the Roman ghetto on Easter Sunday? Perhaps he will grace Jews with his presence on Passover. Soon after Easter, he will travel to the (un)Holy Land. I’m sure Pope Francis will make all the right statements about Judaism and occupied Palestine – in their proper “on the one hand/on the other hand” proportion.
When he arrives in Jerusalem, think of Pope Francis as John Kerry in flowing robes.
How trite Passover/Easter has become. Repetitive as well.
On the first day of Passover, if you’re wondering how much worse “Next Year in Jerusalem” can become, eat some fried artichoke hearts, drink another glass of wine and take a long, deep breath.
The age-old dream of Jewish return has already come true. In spades.