The price of rice has risen to more than $1,000 a ton. This
means that in the overpopulated countries, many people will go without rice,
and this in places where rice is the staple of ordinary diets.
The Wall Street Journal reports on its front page today that there is another dietary crisis in the world. It is the shortage, in some places even absence, of kosher-for-Passover margarine, which means that observant and sought-of observant Jews will have difficulty this holiday in baking the essentials for the eight-day fest. Somehow, they will cope.
I remember the first seder, the ritual meal that ushers in the holiday, as a cognizant child. It was 1944. My mother prepared a meal with only spares of matzah and water. My father thought she had gone mad. My mother stood her ground: "Our relatives in Europe, those who still remain alive, are celebrating Passover with only their faith. Why do we need more?" I cannot exactly vouch for this tale. But it was what my tante Esther and cousin Sophie told me.
For Jews, Passover is z'man cherutaynu, the season of our freedom. It is a time to reflect on what this means for us and for others, for mine and for yours.
Rice at $1,000 a ton exacerbates the slavery of impoverishment. May next year be easier on the bodies and souls of people the world over.
Celebrants of the festival end the seder, as they end the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, with a prayer two millennia old: "Next year in Jerusalem." For centuries, these words were uttered with the remoteness of the anticipated messiah, "Though he may tarry, he will come." It is only a few decades now since Jews have been able to touch the stones of the holy city. On these stones rests the civilization of the Jews and of the Christians. If these stones are not Jewish, they are also not Christian, and the whole history of Christianity crumbles. It crumbles to the myth that some ingenuous formula can be found to satisfy the Muslims, a formula that will not hold. So beware those who are willing to give these stones up.
I wish the Arabs of Palestine self-determination and the fullness of a collective life. But, as Jews will be reminded on Saturday in reading the haggadah, the textual narrative of the exile, slavery and emancipation, the fulfillment of the promise to the Hebrews coursed through forty bitter years of wandering in the wilderness before it was redeemed. Forty years the Palestinian Arabs surely have had. Yet they have not learned the lessons of living with their neighbors.
According to Friday's Ha'artez, Mahmoud Zahar, a leader of Hamas with whom Jimmy Carter conferred in his present visit to the region, has made clear what are the Palestinian pre-conditions not for peace, God forbid, but simply for talks. They are very simple: Israel needs to withdraw back to the 1967 (which is to say, 1949) armistice lines, withdraw its military presence from the West Bank and Gaza (it left Gaza in 2005), dismantle all the settlements, repudiate its annexation of parts of Jerusalem, release all prisoners, end its air, sea, and land blockade of "Palestinian" land. What happens after that? They sit down and talk. Goody, goody. Happy Passover.
I am afraid that the Palestinians, at war with themselves, will need at least another forty years in the wilderness, and I am afraid that means Israel will live with another forty years of terror.