Teach your children…writes Michael Kuttner

April 3, 2015 by Michael Kuttner
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Every Passover eve Jews worldwide sit down with family and friends to recount the story of the Exodus from Egypt and learn its lessons.

Michael Kuttner

Michael Kuttner

A unique feature of this annual religious celebration is the active participation of even the youngest and that is why the Seder is often described as a learning experience without parallel. For thousands of years each generation has learnt the lessons of our ancestors’ experiences and how despite overwhelming odds we somehow managed to survive the cruelest tyrants. Whether one is religious or secular the fact remains that this Festival of Liberation continues to teach us invaluable facts.

As we prepare for this year’s commemoration it is instructive and indeed imperative to look closely at the difference at how Jewish and Arab children are taught about their history and how they are guided to interact with those who are different. This could be a painful exercise for those who are politically correct but nevertheless it is absolutely compulsory if one is to understand realities in this part of the world.

The Exodus from slavery in Egypt marked the real transformation of the Hebrews from a collection of tribes into a nation. Most importantly it set the stage for the receiving of a constitution which would henceforth be the foundation of what we know as Judaism today. Amidst all the food and rituals associated with Passover it is often overlooked that the main objective of the whole exercise is to remind us that the escape from bondage had an aim. That objective was to travel to and settle in the Land promised to the Patriarchs in previous generations. Thus, the whole point in commemorating this Festival is to remind ourselves that Canaan, later to be called Judea & Israel, was to be the final destination. This Land which featured already at the dawn of Jewish history was and remains the focal point of all our liturgy and historical experiences.

As we sit down to feast and recount the story of our ancestors’ encounters with tyrants and those who wished us to vanish it is imperative that we do not overlook, minimise and ignore the intended final destination of the Jewish People. Those who delight in distancing themselves from Israel today while they enjoy the fleshpots of the Diaspora need to be reminded that Passover is all about Israel whether they like it or not.

Repeated in our liturgy is the admonition never to forget that once we were slaves and therefore it is incumbent upon us to treat the stranger (and the convert) with sensitivity and kindness. Having been victims of intolerance and physical assaults ourselves we are told to teach our children that such behaviour is not how Jews should act. This is one of the most valuable lessons of the Seder which is imparted to even the youngest every year at this time. We are instructed never to forget what Amalek and their descendents have done to us but nowhere will you find incitement to jihad and mass murder of those who seek to oppress us. At the same time we have never been told to turn the other cheek and meekly accept our fate. Defending ourselves and awaiting the ultimate messianic time of reward & punishment remains the delicate balance that we impart to future generations. Passover provides the perfect opportunity to reinforce these principles. In doing so, we really and truly help to fulfil the destiny of our people in our Land.

The contrast with how children in neighboring places are taught is vivid and stark. Distorting Jewish history or more often than not, denying it altogether, generations of Moslem Arab children are being poisoned with hate. Brought up on a daily diet of delegitimisation these youngsters are led to believe that Jews have no historical claim here and therefore are valid targets for murder and mayhem.

Within the last few days a powerful short documentary has been released which exposes exactly what is happening in Hamas controlled areas. Bear in mind that Hamas & Fatah together constitute the Palestinian Authority and that these are the people to whom the UN wants us to hand over strategic land including half of Jerusalem. Knowing those involved in producing this video I can personally vouch for its authenticity.

Watch it and then decide whether I am exaggerating or not.

 

 

The contrast between what our children are taught around the Seder table and what these children are taught is revealing. It should convince even the biggest skeptics that those who advocate the things outlined in this video need to be defeated and not supported.

Yet as we sit down to celebrate Passover this year we are faced with those who have learnt nothing, do not want to learn anything and are dedicated to make sure that once again Jews become sacrificial victims. At the liberal left J-Street conference which took place in the USA this past week, one of the star Jewish speakers denounced the concept of Israel being a Jewish majority State and instead proposed that Jews become a protected minority in a Moslem majority country. This statement elicited enthusiastic applause from participants and leaders alike.

Knowing what is happening to minorities in all parts of the Moslem world today it boggles the mind that there can still be individuals (Jewish ones especially) who trot out this tripe and receive encouragement. However such is the ignorance and estrangement from reality today that these sentiments receive serious attention.

The spectacle of Obama/Kerry negotiating another Munich style peace with the human rights serial abusers in Iran drives home the lessons of Passover.

As we recite the passage, “in every generation” we must remember that we continue to face those who wish to destroy us. Thanks however to a reborn Jewish State, this time around we have the capacity to thwart evil intentions, something our people did not have prior to 1948.

Dayenu – enough already should be more than an annual meaningless mumble. We need to make it a reality.

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.

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