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The New Old Lesson Of Passover
here is nothing terribly miraculous
about precision bombs or Warthog heli-
copters or Bradley fighting vehicles, but
for Iraqis, they will serve the purpose
that a river of blood and infestations of locusts
and frogs did for the Israelites in Egypt. The
force of arms will set the Iraqis free, just as the
plagues did for the Hebrews about 3,500 years
And then will come the hard part,-the building
of a renewed nation in which citizens must take
responsibility for their own lives and conduct.
The tyrant who has terrorized 25 million of his
citizens for two decades will be gone and the peo-
ple will have to choose their own course.
We should be thinking about the
Iraqis as we sit down to our Passover
seder and invite our children to remem-
ber the astonishing story of Moses and how, with
God's force, he led the children of Israel out of
their 400 years of enslavement. We must under-
stand that the lessons of the Exodus are just as
relevant now as they were when Pharaoh ruled
It is almost impossible for most Jews in
America to understand what it would be like to
live without liberty. Holocaust survivors under-
stand it, of course, but they are a shrinkingly
small fraction of the 5.2 million Jews in this
country. Happily for the rest of us, we must rely
on imagination and on the story that the
Think about how fearful we might be if we
lived in a country where a secret police arrested
citizens on suspicion of political opposition and
sent them to what became known as Chop-Chop
Square, the Baghdad plaza where Saddam
-Hussein regularly had his political opponents
beheaded. We may be surprised that the people of
Basra or Najaf or Al Kut are not cheering the
U.S. and British forces, but we
need to remember the terror
under which they have lived and
how it has sapped their confi-
In turn, thinking about the
psychology of oppression in Iraq
may give us new understanding
of why Moses needed to keep the
nation of Israel wandering in the
desert long enough to rid itself of
the slave mentality. And recalling
how some Israelites urged a
return to Pharaoh's rule should
keep us from expecting
a sudden flourishing of
a Western-style democ-
racy along the Tigris
and the Euphrates.
We need to remember how ter-
rifying the unknowns of liberty
will seem to the majority of
Iraqis who have been raised in a
ceaseless flood of propaganda
about the benevolence of Hussein
and the evil of the West. Like the
sons of Samuel, they may seek to
have a king appointed over them
because it seems less scary than
If we are lucky and skillful, this
war could encourage the rogue
Arab nations to rethink their
philosophies and practices. But it
should also renew for us, the most fortunate gen-
eration of Jews since David built the shining city
of Jerusalem, a dedication to freedom of thought
and action in America and in the world.
Human nature does not change. Tyrants will
forever try to enslave and oppress; a watchful
M UNCIE S'140CDIG.
FOUR S ?
people and a merciful God are the only effective
defense against the bondage of the despots.
Is tonight going to be different from all other
nights? The answer in Baghdad will be at least a
temporary "yes." For the rest of us, it will be
"yes" if we strive to make it so. ❑
e worry about our troops in the war-
torn Middle East. The brave coalition
forces are in our prayers as they try to
make that cradle of civilization a cru-
cible of peace.
But we tend to forget that they worry
about us, too — their family, their friends
and other Americans.
"We're all thinking about you, even though we
can't call or e-mail," Ian Black, a Jewish staff ser-
geant in the U.S. Air Force, wrote to the Jewish
News last week. He's the son of Judy and Michael
Black of Southfield.
He was responding to our March 21 cover story,
"Readying For War," which helped him understand
how deeply families of troops participating in
Operation Iraqi Freedom were concerned.
are sleeping in the open-air desert in far greater dan-
"I always just dismiss my mother's fears about me
ger than I am, and contact with their families is
being here," he said. "I always just tell her,
near next to impossible."
`Don't worry. I'll be fine. You're blowing it
We should worry about our troops.
out of proportion.'
They're risking their lives in the windswept
"I now realize that she's not the
sands of a far-off land, and in some cases
making the supreme sacrifice.
In the midst of bombs dropping
Even if we can't see or feel them in the haze
and bullets flying, and the death toll on
of battle, we can still speak to them spiritual-
both sides mounting, Sgt. Black found it in
ly through the sweep of God's embrace.
his heart to reach out to those of us fortu-
In many ways, that divinely inspired con-
nate to be living in the relative security of
nection reinforces the will of our troops to
keep going despite the danger, hunger and
Communications are limited against the
anguish that war brings.
darkness of war, giving him deeper appreciation for
As Sgt. Black put it: "It's your love and support
the Internet. Having access to it for personal e-
that's getting us through this difficult time."
mails, he acknowledges, is a privilege.
So please: Secure a spot in your heart for our
As he reminds, "There are soldiers out there who
Related story: page 23