Dear beloved Community,

My family and I are preparing dinner because the Passover holiday begins this evening. The Seder, meaning order and ritual, is the traditional meal in which we tell the story of our ancient Exodus from Mitzrayim (the “narrow place”).

בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת עַצְמוֹ כְּאִלוּ הוּא יֶָָצֶָא מִמִּצְרַָים

ְBe’chol dor va’dor chayav adam lirot et atzmo ke’ilu hu yatzah mi Mitzrayim
“In every generation, one is obligated to see oneself as one who personally went out from Egypt.”

During this holiday of contemplation on what it means to be free, I invite you to think less about the ancient Israelites who came out of Egypt and more about the Palestinian people living today in the bondage of apartheid.

Over three million Palestinians live in the occupied West Bank. Throughout their cities and villages are over 450,000 Jewish Israeli settlers, as well as an additional 220,000 in annexed East Jerusalem living in Jewish-only settlements built, sustained, and expanded in violation of international law.
While Jewish Israeli settlers enjoy the full rights of Israeli civilian law the Palestinian families living next door are subject to Israeli military law which allows soldiers to kidnap children as young as twelve in the middle of the night. They are blindfolded, handcuffed,subjected to torture, and denied access to their parents. Israeli military law 101 forbids ten or more Palestinians from gathering for the purposes of peaceful political protest.

On the other side of Israel/Palestine is Gaza, home to 2.1 million Palestinians, 70% of whom are refugees from their original lands inside the legal boundaries of Israel. Gaza is often referred to as the largest open-air prison on earth. Israel controls the air, land, and sea borders, what (even how many food calories) can enter, and what and who can exit the besieged enclave.

Eight-year-old Bilal al-Masharawi, from the Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City, suffers from respiratory disease and chronic pneumonia. He is in dire need of medical treatment unavailable in Gaza hospitals, yet the Israeli Government is denying him permission to leave the modern-day narrow place that is Gaza.

Bilal’s mother relayed to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem:

“The infections are so bad he’s developed a small hole in his heart. In December 2022, we got to a-Rantisi Hospital in Gaza. He had a lot of tests done and the doctor told us he had a very weak immune system and lung problems, and that he couldn’t accurately diagnose him because there isn’t the right equipment in Gaza. He referred us for treatment at al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem…

While we were waiting for the permit, Bilal was monitored and treated at the hospital in Gaza. He received inhalation, antibiotic spray and an immune system boost. Every time his pain got worse and his fever went up…

We went to the Gaza DCO to see what else we could do, and they told us they’d done everything possible and there was nothing more they could do… I gave him the ID numbers of Bilal’s grandparents and aunts on my husband Muhammad’s side and on my side. We checked about 20 names, and he told me everyone was denied.”

Bilal’s family is now scheduled for an April 9 appointment at al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem, but as of yet, Israel has not granted their exit permits.

These overlapping Abrahamic holidays — Ramadan, Easter, and Passover — devoted to purifying, redeeming, and liberating ourselves are a time for deep contemplation.

How can we purify ourselves while Yemen children are starving thanks to a war between two sects of the same faith?

How can we seek redemption while a movement, in the name of Christianity, heralds Trump as the messiah, as our government is in the process of deporting Russians seeking asylum rather than conscription to war, and as two branches of Orthodox Christianity attempt to use their faith to legitimize their cause as bombs are falling?

We must ask ourselves what it means to feel grateful for our own freedom while Palestinians live under military occupation; immigrants and refugees are held in ICE concentration camps; Black and Latinx people disproportionally fill our prisons; and Trans people are being legislated against and attacked.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” 
— Nelson Mandela

As you open your hearts and lips in prayer these Ramadan, Passover, and Easter days, please also pray with your feet, and your pocketbooks.

Please give what you can today to fund FOR-USA’s work this holiday season, and year-round, to overcome white Christian nationalism, Jewish supremacy, and all other hateful, racist, violent blasphemizations of the Divine.

Chag Pesach Sameach, Ramadan Mubarak, wishing you a Blessed Holy Week, and a Happy Easter,

Ariel Gold
FOR-USA Executive Director
 FOR Prayers
Ramadan, Day 22: A Prayer for PalestineBy Sohaib N. Sultan, published July 19, 2014, in Time Magazine

May innocent children, women, and men who are victims of our collective evil rest in peace as they return to the One who is all-loving, most kind.

May they experience an eternal life of bliss where they will never again have to hear another explosion or experience another painful wound.

May their loved ones who are left behind find the inner peace and fortitude to live on.
May God forgive us for our evils here on earth and for our lack of compassion, courage, and wisdom in these times.

May God grant us strength and patience and show us the enlightened way of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence.


Your Child Will AskBy Rabbi Brant Rosen

Your child will askwhy do we observe this festival?

And you will answerit is because of what God did for uswhen we were set free from the land of Egypt.

Your child will askwere we set free from the land of Egyptthat we might hold tightlyto the pain of our enslavementwith a mighty hand?

And you will answerwe were set free from Egyptthat we might release our painby reaching with an outstretched armto all who struggle for freedom.

Your child will askwere we set free from the land of Egyptbecause we are God’s chosen people?

And you will answerwe were set free from the land of Egyptso that we will finally come to learnall who are oppressedare God’s chosen.

Your child will askwere we set free from the land of Egyptthat we might conquer and settlea land inhabited by others?

And you will answerwe were set free from the land of Egyptthat we might open wide the doorsto proclaim:

Let all who are dispossessed return home.Let all who wander find welcome at the table.
Let all who hunger for liberationcome and eat.

From Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth, Easter Alert, 2020

Let me sing for my belovedmy love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones and planted it with choice vines;

He built a watchtower in the midst of it,and hewed out a wine vat in it;he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?[Isaiah 5:1-4]

God, give your people hearts that weep, lips that speak the truth, and hands that work for peace.My heart, my lips, my hands, too, O God, for your use.

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