This week is Passover, and while Jews are not breaking bread with their families, as Republican politician Carly Fiorina suggested in an e-mailed Passover greeting to her supporters, they have been breaking matzos, hiding one half as the afikoman, and eating it later as they prepare to conclude their Passover seders.
The formal conclusion of the seder, however, does not involve matzos, but rather the following words: “L’shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim: next year in Jerusalem.”
There will also be a seder in the White House this year, a now-annual tradition that began on the campaign trail. I imagine those closing words will take on new meaning this year.
The Obama administration has been engaged over the past few weeks in a very public dispute with the Israeli government regarding construction in East Jerusalem. Whether or not Israel should cease building new settlements there is beyond the scope of this column. Instead, I would like to offer the following two points.
The first is that the significance of Jerusalem is a centuries-old, deeply important part of the Jewish tradition, so important that the Passover seder concludes with our desire to return there. This does not mean that Israel has an inviolable right to keep all of East Jerusalem, but it does mean that, for Israel, the status of Jerusalem is different from that of settlements on the West Bank.
The second point is that despite this temporary dispute, the U.S.-Israel relationship remains deeply important to both countries. Israel is an important ally of the U.S. in the War on Terror, and the two countries cooperate a great deal on everything from missile defense to alternative energy technology. More importantly, we share values of democracy and equality, and for that reason alone, we should work to maintain this bond.
We should also ensure that the issue of settlements does not distract us from the most pressing issue in the region, Iran’s growing nuclear capability. A nuclear Iran would be bad for Israel, bad for our troops in Iraq and bad for the overall stability of the region. Stopping Iran’s uranium enrichment needs to be one of our first priorities.
There are numerous passages in the Haggadah, the book used for the Passover seder, that deal with minute disagreements between ancient rabbis—exactly how many plagues the Egyptians suffered at the Red Sea, for instance. I’ve never really understood the significance.
Perhaps it is important for us to discuss these disagreements publicly, in detail, year after year. There is, however, another school of thought, one that says that these passages were inserted by unremembered authors long ago and can be replaced by others that have more meaning for us today. Maybe these public disagreements, whether between the ancient rabbis or between two countries, are the equivalent of breaking bread on Passover—a bit out of place. Maybe they are less important than telling the whole story.
Either way, dayenu. Enough. It’s time to move forward.
Eve is a junior in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]