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Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist and playwright who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. She has published seven internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play.


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PostSun Apr 09, 2006 8:25 am     Passover in the Holy Land    


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Passover in the Holy Land

By Naomi Ragen
April 9, 2006

You know that Passover is coming when the Arab workers in the supermarket start cleaning up the crumbs from the bread aisle, and marking the shelves "Hametz." You can see the special matzo lining the shelves: Organic whole wheat, wheat bran, egg, chocolate-covered.

People take this holiday very seriously here in Israel. Everyone is buying gifts for their Seder evening hosts. Or they are stocking up on food for the groups that will descend on them to be hosted.

And although forty rockets were fired from Gaza (gee, that unilateral pull-out was such a brilliant move, saving so many lives...) people don't seem worried, or even vaguely concerned, except of course, if you were one of the workers in that mattress factory in Ashkelon which took a direct hit, sending at least one person to the hospital. As our friends in Reuters wrote: 'The makeshift rockets fall harmlessly into Israel.' Thanks, Reuters for putting all our fears into perspective! I hope one of your reporters doesn't happen to be standing in a spot where that amateurish little bomb falls, because despite the lack of professionalism, he might actually find himself unprofessionally beheaded! But hey, that's unlikely. Reuters doesn't usually send its reporters to places where
they are likely to actually witness any news first-hand. They have their "sources" in "Palestine' call them on their cell-phones. I say this all allegedly, of course. Don't believe me if you don't want to.

This morning I heard the sound of jets roar overhead --a sure sign that the nation is in defensive-mode. I read that air strikes had targeted terrorists returning from "training camp for freedom fighters" in Gaza, with their "Everything you need to know about firing missiles at civilians" manual. A few were killed, along with the child or children of a "freedom fighter" who brought along the tots to participate in the fun and games. What a lovely parent! My son got a week off from the army, and now he has to go back. He doesn't know if they'll let him out for the Seder. Given the security situation, and the fact that his unit will no doubt be on full-alert, I doubt it. I'll miss him. He's still my baby, whatever his commanding officer thinks. I guess I'll have to ask the Four Questions, as I'll be the youngest.

I have a few more than four to ask, though. As I was cleaning for Passover, I came across an unopened envelope that I guess I set aside until after the elections. It was from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (jcpa@netvision.net.il). It was called: Defensible Borders, A Fundamental Necessity for Israeli Security." Only in Israel would one need to actually research such an obvious statement. In it, I learned a few things I didn't know. A Kassam II rocket has a range of 6-7 kilometers. A katyusha has a range of 22 kilometers. This means, that if Ehud Olmert and his merry band of losers have their way, and Israel pulls back to the '67 borders, rockets from Hebron will be able to hit Beersheba and Kiryat Gat; rockets from Bethlehem will be able to hit Jerusalem; rockets from Bodrus will be in range of Ben Gurion Airport. Rockets from Rantis can hit Tel Aviv. Rockets from Kalkilya can hit Kfar Saba; Rockets from Tulkarem can hit Netanya; Rockets from Jenin can hit Afula and Nazareth. By the way, there are .04 kilometers separating Jerusalem from Bethlehem, and .07 kilometers separating Kalkilya (home of the Hamas terrorist who blew up the Park Hotel in Netanya during Seder night) from Kfar Saba.

As General John Foss, former commander of the 82nd airborne division of the U.S. Armed Forces once said: "As a military man I have to say that the '67 borders are not defensible in the long term. The State of Israel absolutely cannot exist within these borders."

But who cares? Israel's leaders are on their merry way, led by people who wrote books like: The New Middle East, just before the entire world was engulfed by the primitive barbarism of the old Middle East. They were just re-elected by the Israeli public to serve yet another term in office after their brilliant success in their last term.

And the average person, like me, who isn't an idiot, who packs off her son in his uniform knowing all that I know, and having no way to influence events except to type away and publish the facts, alerting those few who actually give a damn what is really going on here, how do we go on?

We go on because we remember who we are, and the precarious state of our people and our nation that has survived and triumphed so many times over innumerable odds in the past. We go on because we remember that in the blink of an eye, we can have salvation come our way, not through the normal channels, because if that were true, we'd have been extinct a few thousand years ago. We go on, because we need to make a Seder this Wednesday night, and our sons and daughters and grandchildren will be joining us. And if we're lucky,our soldier sons as well. We will drink our wine, and dip our herbs in the salty water of tears, remembering how we called out to our God in Egypt and how He brought down the plagues on the houses of our enemies, and brought us to the Promised Land. And even though we went through the desert kicking and screaming --we didn't like the food (we want meat, not manna! Oh, those watermelons we ate in Egypt!), building a Golden Calf, and challenging our wonderful leader, Moses, still God kept His promise. Whilly, nilly, He brought us home.

And when I say: Next Year in Jerusalem, unlike most Jews in the world, I will know that I am already there, and that it is a dream come true. I hope that your 'Next Year in Jerusalem" will also be a dream that comes true, and that next year we will truly be free of fear, and want, and stupidity.

God Bless you all, and a happy holiday.

Naomi

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