Passover 2024 / 5784 – This night is very different to other nights..

By Naomi Miller

On the evening of April 22, an estimated 98% of Jewish Israelis will participate in a Passover Seder. Based on a recent survey, 83% of Israelis feel that it is important that their children experience this annual tradition of togetherness, reading the Haggadah, singing songs, asking questions, eating unique once a year food and enjoying quality time with family and friends.

Passover is also known as the Festival of Spring and the Festival of Freedom, remembering our new beginning, from a nation enslaved to a redeemed people. 

Spring has started in Israel. The weather is glorious and sunny, the flowers are blooming, and spring cleaning is in full force. Yet, the Festival of Freedom is not too convincing to many Israelis. How can we feel totally free when we are in the 7th month of war with 133 Israeli hostages still hidden in tunnels, facing what could be modern day slavery?

In the Haggadah we read about our transition from slavery to redemption and are encouraged to imagine it as if we ourselves were liberated and participated in the Exodus from Egypt. We recall Moses’s appeal to Pharoah to “Let my People Go”, followed by the birth of a free nation, from slavery to redemption. Many Israelis are saying that it is the first time since statehood that we are experiencing a strange reality at our seder, where we are not all liberated. This year feels very different. 

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum has compiled its own Haggadah, to honor the hostages still held in captivity. The Haggadah, titled “I brought you up from the land of Egypt; I redeemed you from the house of bondage” was printed at the recently reopened printing house of Kibbutz Be’eri in the Gaza Envelope (over 90 of its residents were killed and 20 kidnapped on October 7). This year, “what makes this night different from all other nights” has new meaning. We pray that one answer will be that 133 hostages are freed, that this night will be very different than their last 190+ nights that they have endured, and they too will dine at their seder tables.