Passover is a celebration for Jews, marking their liberation from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Every year, we gather around the dinner table to celebrate and educate our children about how, through signs and wonders, we overcame a powerful nation intent on our destruction.

Imagine generations raised in slavery, unfamiliar with any other way of life. They had no technological resources to learn from, no examples showing a different existence. Generation after generation accepted slavery as a mere fact, yet, without truly understanding freedom, they still yearned for it.

The story of the Exodus from Egypt, where it took the Israelites 40 years to reach the land of Israel, is intriguing. Egypt and Israel are neighboring countries; it does not take that long to travel between them. This extensive wandering seems like a profound lack of direction right after achieving freedom. However, there’s an evolutionary logic to this: The generation that left Egypt was not the one that arrived in Israel. They had to metaphorically shed their old skin, like a snake, moving forward with a new generation that believed in freedom and never would know slavery.

What most of us attribute to freedom is the ability to move physically. However, in my view, many people might be “physically free” but not mentally free. True freedom is internal—it’s about being free from the opinions of others. It’s about being able to think, learn, and experience without fear of criticism.

Since their period of enslavement in Egypt, Jews have faced countless wars and relentless hatred, culminating in the 1930s with Nazi Germany. The Jewish population has only recently approached the population it reached before the Holocaust, but throughout, Jews have aspired to live and thrive. Even Krav Maga, a self-defense system, was developed in response to these dark times. We vowed “never again” after enduring such hardship, but on October 7, 2023, we faced a new setback.

Now, in 2024, we witness hostility towards Jews reminiscent of 1930s Nazi Germany, particularly on college campuses in the USA, such as Columbia University, where campaigns of hate and violence against Jews are permitted.

Every Passover, the Haggadah reminds us: “In every generation, they rise up to destroy us.”

It’s not just a history lesson. It’s a warning.

We promised “never again,” and this means doing everything necessary to prevent another Holocaust, even if it means facing violence, hatred, or social ostracism. Freedom, truly, is not free.

It requires vigilance, courage, and action to preserve. This means standing up against injustice wherever we see it, rallying community support, and ensuring that education about our past is accurate and meaningful. We must engage in dialogue, even with those who may not understand our history or our fears, to foster understanding and cooperation.

The struggle for freedom, both physically and mentally, is ongoing. It involves fighting against stereotypes, combating discrimination, and challenging narratives that seek to undermine our identity and rights. This fight is not just about protecting Jews but defending the dignity and freedom of all people against tyranny and oppression.

As we remember the Exodus during Passover, it’s not just about recounting a tale of ancient liberation. It’s a reminder to each of us that freedom fought for and won must be cherished, protected, and never taken for granted. Each generation must learn from the past and commit to a future where freedom and justice are not just ideals, but realities for all.

Tsahi Shemesh

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