Monday, 22 April 2024 17:37

Celebrating Freedom and Praying for Peace: Passover in Wartime By Tomer Bar-Lavi Charge d’ affaires of Israel Embassy to Ethiopia

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For more than 3,000 years, the Jewish people have reenacted their journey to freedom during the Passover festival, as they joyously celebrate the Children of Israel's exodus from slavery in Egypt to a life of liberty and independence in the Land of Israel.

This holiday’s message can resonate with people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, as it emphasizes the universal yearning for personal and collective freedom. Always coming just before the Ethiopian and other Eastern Christians’ celebrations of Fasika/Easter, the Passover holiday is one part of a larger holiday season which touches us all, Israelis and Ethiopians alike.

This year, however, our joy is tinged with sadness. As Israeli families gather for the traditional Seder meal, the Passover dinner will be accompanied by sorrow for our fallen soldiers and civilians, prayers for the recovery of the wounded, and expressions of solidarity with the tens of thousands of displaced Israelis who cannot return to their homes. Many families will set an empty place at their Passover table to symbolize our longing for the release of the 133 men, women and children still being held hostage in Gaza in the most horrific conditions imaginable.

Since October 7th, Israel has been confronted with brutal attacks and existential threats emanating from the Iranian regime and its many proxies, from Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Lebanon, through the Houthis in Yemen to other militias and terrorists in Syria and Iraq. These self-declared enemies of the Jewish state openly threaten Israel with complete annihilation. More ominously, they have not hesitated to try and turn their malevolent aspirations into reality, as recently demonstrated by Iran's massive missile and drone attack and Hamas' massacre of 1,200 Israelis on 7 October.

Despite the resounding success in repelling Iran's attack on 14 April, realized with the extraordinary cooperation of the US and Israel’s allies in Europe and the region, as well as the exemplary military accomplishments made in the fight against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the war is not yet over. Much remains to be done, including the restoration of deterrence against the Ayatollahs' regime and its proxies. This step is essential to preventing additional direct attacks on Israel, and also to stopping the spread of the Islamic revolution worldwide, Iran's efforts to become a nuclear power, and its ballistic missiles program.

A key element is the designation as a terrorist organization of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) - which is a primary pillar of support of the regime and the spearhead of its repressive policies in Iran and aggressive actions abroad.
This war is not only about Israel. It is a combat waged with our allies to protect our shared values and the freedoms we hold so dear.

Jewish history is the story of prevailing, of a people that overcomes obstacles and challenges against all odds. The age-old longing to return to the Jewish homeland, as expressed every Passover with the words “Next year in Jerusalem," inspired generation after generation with the dream of becoming again a free people in the Land of Israel.
Alongside freedom, Passover bears a powerful message of resilience and optimism. This year too, despite the present situation, we will be strengthened by our heritage and will look forward towards the future with faith and hope.

Israel must fight to protect its citizens and their liberty against murderous aggressors. However, we will not abandon the struggle to live in peace and coexistence with other peoples of goodwill in our region.

May the festivals of Passover and Fasika bring Israel and Ethiopia – our countries and peoples – many blessings of health, peace and prosperity.

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