Op-ed: Day 195 of the war

Passover 5784, reliving ancient history

The Haggadah directs us to retell the exodus story as though we personally had been enslaved. To do that this year, there’s no need to cast the mind back through millennia

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

This image released by the IDF on January 20, 2024, shows the inside of a Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza's Khan Younis where hostages were held. (Israel Defense Forces)
This image released by the IDF on January 20, 2024, shows the inside of a Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza's Khan Younis where hostages were held. (Israel Defense Forces)

This Editor’s Note was sent out Wednesday in ToI’s weekly update email to members of the Times of Israel Community. To receive these Editor’s Notes as they’re released, join the ToI Community here.

For more than six months since Hamas’s invasion and slaughter, Israel has been trying to liberate the hostages that Gaza’s terrorist government dragged away to captivity.

In November, a weeklong truce secured the release of many of them, but 129 remain in Hamas’s hands, in terrible conditions, all these unthinkably long days, weeks and months later. Many of them, indeed, are no longer alive.

As Israel and Jewish people everywhere sit down at the Passover Seder table this year, nobody will need reminding of the modern relevance of its story of exodus and liberation. Nobody will need reminding of the Haggadah’s oft-stated obligation to retell that ancient rescue saga as though we ourselves were enslaved and ultimately freed.

To do so does not require imaginatively casting the mind back through millennia, but merely a scan of the news.

Our hearts will be with those we are missing when we declare, “This year we are here; next year in the land of Israel. This year, we are slaves; next year, we will be free people.” Seldom, in fact, will those lines have been delivered with greater national fervor.

A fish swallows an Egyptian soldier in a mosaic scene depicting the splitting of the Red Sea from the Exodus story, from the 5th-century synagogue at Huqoq, in northern Israel, unveiled in 2017. (Jim Haberman/University of North Carolina Chapel Hill)

Tens of thousands of Israelis, moreover, will be marking Passover this year in an abiding state of internal exile — forced from their homes in the north, or unable to return to their homes in the south.

And we have barely begun to internalize the losses of those who will never return — those who were slaughtered on October 7, and those who have lost their lives in the war that has raged since. Neither can we be indifferent to the lives lost by others caught up in the escalating conflict — those, that is, not complicit in the unprovoked invasion of our revived Jewish homeland.

The people of modern Israel have rarely if ever faced loss, psychological terror and existential danger to the degree we do now. For better or worse, we have never  previously required the direct intervention of others to help thwart enemy attack — as we did overnight Saturday-Sunday when a remarkable coalition, led by the United States and including Jordan and Saudi Arabia, enabled us to emerge nearly unscathed from an unprecedented direct missile and drone attack by Iran’s Islamic extremist regime.

Members of the Israeli military stand next to an Iranian ballistic missile which fell in Israel on the weekend, during a media tour at the Julis military base near the southern city of Kiryat Malachi on April 16, 2024. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

The nation of Israel does not, and plainly dares not, dwell alone. It will need all its wisdom to sustain and develop its vital alliances.

It will need all its wisdom, too, to emerge from this enduringly dark hour. Its wisdom and its resilience and its unity. And, yes, smart, worldly, unpanicked leadership.

The intervention of a higher power? Well, perhaps that is what has helped sustain the Jewish people, uniquely, near-miraculously, throughout all those generations since ancient times. And perhaps, as is strongly implied in Deuteronomy 28:8, that higher power helps those who also help themselves.


On Monday night, I interviewed Giora Eiland, a retired general and former head of the National Security Council. He set out some fairly radical proposals for alleviating the crisis — not panaceas, but what he regards as the least bad options.

I share his final understatement: “I hope that next year, on the eve of Passover, we’ll talk again, and the situation will be better.”

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