Today, Israelis tend to isolate themselves from the world. Negative moods crowd out optimistic Passover thoughts.

Traditional Jewish kosher matzo with flowers.

Passover: the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” Photo: imago

The Easter holiday that just ended is about the suffering and hardships of Jesus, but it ends with a Hollywood-style happy ending: resurrection, rebirth, hope and even joy. Thus, later Christian history settles accounts with the earlier pagan version of the holiday, which is about farewell to the cold, dark winter and the beginning of spring. Seemingly dead nature creates the impossible and awakens to new life. The whole world is blooming and people are running around drunk with sunshine.

The Jewish Passover, which was already an important celebration during the life of Jesus, is also about a kind of resurrection: from slavery to life in freedom. This liberation is presented partly as a mythical-historical story, partly as a process that continues permanently and will only be completed in the future: “This year you are slaves; Next year you will be free.”

Both festivals are overshadowed by discord that clouds optimistic messages. Anyone who listens closely to Bach's St. Matthew Passion, whose Christian source is known to be the New Testament, will recognize the overtly anti-Jewish undertones that run throughout the text. And the Haggadah, which Jewish families read on Passover night, is not devoid of hostile messages and calls for revenge against anyone who is not Jewish.

In modern versions of the Haggadah, these hostile passages are removed. They are more conciliatory, universal texts, read by some liberal families and also read in many kibbutzim. But most Jews stick to the original written in the Middle Ages, regardless of whether they ultimately identify with it or not.

Israel before next Passover is a suffocating place

In these dark days of war, Jews and Israelis tend to isolate themselves from the world and cling to the spirit of separatism. The Haggadah says: Many wanted to exterminate us, but God saved us from them. So everyone is against us, but God is on our side. We just have to trust him and ignore the rest of the world.

This is the thinking of people like Bezalel Smotrich, Israel's right-wing finance minister, and these days Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also seems to think the same way, even if he is hardly pious. Even the liberal public in Israel, which is finally waking up from the paralysis of winter and demonstrating en masse again against the government, does not think or feel in terms of spring, hope, joy or faith. In its place is anger and frustration. Anger replaces the despair of October.

Anger replaces despair

Perhaps anger is a prerequisite for freedom from slavery. Anger breaks chains and overthrows tyrants. We learned this lesson no later than 1789 with the French Revolution. Anger is necessary in Türkiye, in Russia, in Iran; The list goes on.

Israel before next Passover is a scorching, suffocating place that causes a burning sensation in the throat and lungs. A place where no one pays attention to the flourishing nature. But we must not forget the flowering. Flourish as a vision, as a possibility, as a utopia, as a starting point. Like in a well-known Israeli song that says that one day flowers will grow from tank pipes. That's what's so special about Easter this year: climbing the barricades and imagining spring.

Translated from the Hebrew by Susanne Knaul.