This is the season sacred to both Jews and Christians.
Passover and Easter are arguably the formative events of both communities. To this skeptic, there is no chance that the Easter story of resurrection is historically accurate. There may have been some historical incidents behind the biblical story of the Exodus, but no archaeologist has yet uncovered any sign of them. The parting of the Red Sea looked great on the silver screen, but there were no cameras to record the original. The giving of the Torah to Moses is as significant for Judaism as is the resurrection for Christianity, and about as doubtful.
Whether historically true or not, both holidays provide us with thrilling stories that touch eternal values. Freedom is the essence of Passover; rebirth and salvation the message of Easter. There are spiritual overlaps in those messages, and Easter depends on Passover. The Last Supper may have been a Seder, and it was on account of creating a disturbance in Jerusalem and at the Temple amidst the crowds coming for holiday sacrifices that Jesus got into his final troubles.
This year the holidays are providing a bit of quiet. The Jewish government is on leave for family vacations and avoiding a response to the most recent demands of its American nemesis, and the Americans are allowing the holidays to pass without public reprimands for tardiness.
We should not expect complete peace until the end of days, but that is more a Christian notion than a Jewish one.
The Russians have been reminded of terror. I have not heard of Israeli officials offering help on this occasion. Perhaps that will come when the Jews go back to work, or they may remember the last time they offered assistance, and were rebuffed. The Russians insist that their terror is not like Israel's, caused by unjust occupation. They should listen to my friend Igor, who said this morning that the Caucasus is as occupied as the West Bank, and its people deserve freedom every bit as much as the Palestinians.
There is also commotion closer to these fingers. Some of takes the form of traffic jams as Israelis clog the roads to Jerusalem for their sacred purposes, and to the Galilee for family holidays.
Think of what it was like driving home from a Seder, when the roads were crowded by drivers filled with at least four glasses of wine.
There continues an uptick in Palestinian demonstrations. They focus on the security barrier, the more general theme of occupation, fantasies that Israelis are about to destroy al-Aqsa mosque and expel Arabs from East Jerusalem, or protests about injuries and deaths suffered at earlier demonstrations that got out of hand.
The ostensible leaders of the West Bank have embarked on what they call legitimate, peaceful demonstrations against Israeli occupation, asserting that they are employing refurbished Palestinian security forces to keep the protests within bounds.
There has been a lot of stone throwing, but so far no suicide bombing.
Land Day is an annual event marking a protest in 1976 over land expropriation, which resulted in the killing of six Palestinians and the wounding of many more by the Israeli army and police. This year the march through the Galilee town of Sakhnin attracted an estimated 10,000 participants, including Arab and some Jewish Members of Knesset. The many Palestinian flags were not a reason for police intervention. The crowd was peaceful until a few individuals, with heads covered in the style of terrorists, waved pictures of Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus in 2008, perhaps by Israeli operatives. That produced a televised beating of the picture wavers by other participants in the march.
Next week we return to normalcy, but then comes a two week period that includes Israel's day to commemorate the Holocaust, a Memorial Day to honor security personnel and civilians killed in wars or terror attacks, and Israel Independence Day. We'll be noticing if the holiday quiet so far honored on the Washington front continues through an extended hiatus, and if Palestinian efforts to demonstrate peacefully stay within their designated format.
May your holidays be peaceful as well as inspiring.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem