Ambassador Michael Oren’s Passover Greeting, 5772

Passover enjoins us to rejoice in freedom, to cherish its liberties, to value its fruits. But Passover also reminds us of the price of freedom and the responsibilities it engenders.

For the Children of Israel, freedom from slavery was anything but free. Toil, loss, displacement, wandering – all were the price of an unfettered Jewish life. And freedom for the Jewish people did not mean anarchy or license, but just the opposite: embracing the Law. Indeed, for some Jews the cost and obligations of liberty were too steep, and they preferred to return to slavery in Egypt. Passover, therefore, not only commemorates our emergence as a sovereign people, but urges us to recall that emancipation endows us all with accountability as well as rights.

Amb. Michael Oren

This year, as turmoil continues to sweep much of the Middle East, we are once again mindful of freedom’s preciousness and burdens. We in Israel have always been proud to say we are the region’s only functioning democracy, and we would be happier still to be one of many. But, like the ancient Israelites, our neighbors are experiencing a painful process. For their sake and the world’s, we wish them a swift and successful transition culminating in genuine liberty and peace.

Israel’s commitment to democracy, meanwhile, was questioned by allegations of discrimination against women and the denial of rights to Palestinians. In fact, the incidents of harassment were isolated and unequivocally condemned. The Palestinians do have the right to vote – in Palestinian elections – and we hope they will soon join us at the negotiating table to establish a viable Palestinian state.  And in creating a peace-loving democratic state, they will have a stable and resilient model next door.

In Israel, America, and around the world, the Jewish people understand that liberty must be forged and that with freedom comes responsibility. The challenges may seem daunting, but our unity and our faith have always enabled us to prevail.

This Passover, as we recline together with our families and friends at the Seder table, let us recall the price, revel in the rights, and wish all of our people everywhere Next Year in Jerusalem.

Dr. Michael B. Oren is the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. In celebration of this holiday of freedom, he has published an intimate portrait of Israeli democracy, “Israel’s Resilient Democracy.

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