Passover is the holiday of freedom, of Spring, or rebirth. Amazingly enough, to get to this holiday, we work very hard to rid our houses of all leavened products (that means cakes, noodles, bread, etc.). We clean everything...to the bottoms of the drawers and the tops of the cabinets.
We switch our dishes and pots and utensils to special sets (one for dairy and one for meat) that we only use for these 7 days (8 outside of Israel). And, after all this work, this exhausting, time-consuming work...the holiday arrives and we too feel free. We sit down to a seder, a festive meal in which we read the story of the exodus from Egypt...of the time when we were oppressed as slaves and were set free.
Of an amazing journey across time and desert...to home. To a land we were promised, a destiny, faith...to home. When you have a son in the army, the concept of home takes on new meaning. It is an anchor you provide to your son or daughter. For all their wanderings, for all they learn, for all the challenges they meet as they explore and grow in the coming months, this is the home we make for him.
I don't know if I realized how a soldier clings to home as a foundation through his service until I watched Elie. Home was the reward for weeks in the army; home was more than a destination. That's what the people of Israel felt when they left Egypt, I believe. They were going home.
There is such joy, such calm in having your children home on the holidays. Elie's first and last Passover in the army was spent at home; the third was in the army. This first for Shmulik, he is at home.
And, as I prepare the final meals for this holiday, as I welcome and enjoy all my children at home and guests from afar, my thoughts go again, as they often do, to another son of Israel.
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped almost four years ago from Israeli soil. Hamas terrorists (for what else can you call people who terrorize a million people with rockets and bombs and firebombs and stones?) infiltrated into Israel through a tunnel, attacked Gilad's unit, killing several, and dragging Gilad across the border.
Perhaps that is war; perhaps that is the way of enemies. We have thousands of Palestinian security prisoners in our jails, after all. Why are they any less important than Gilad?
The answer is in the response we get from Hamas - they could not care less for these prisoners...keep them, don't keep them; feed them, don't feed them. It is we who agonize for Gilad, we who demand his freedom.
For almost four years now, Gilad had been denied the simple right of seeing his parents or even receiving simple correspondence. For almost four years, he has not been home; for almost four years, he has not been free.
This Passover, with Gilad still captive in Gaza, this holiday means we are just that much less free and home is just a bit less home.
May this next year see Gilad free in a rebuilt and united Jerusalem and may all our sons celebrate their freedom in their homes!