What does freedom mean to you?

by Brian on April 14, 2023

in In the News,Jewish Holidays and Culture,Politics

The protests that have roiled Israel for months have been all about “dem-o-cra-tia” (the Hebrew chant equivalent for “democracy”). But that’s not the only message of this horrendous, historic moment we’ve collectively been living through. This has also represented a mass demand for freedom and that makes the demonstrations of 2023 a perfect Pesach metaphor.

What does freedom mean to you? It’s a question we ask at the Seder table every year. It’s one worth asking on this Shabbat of Hol Ha Moed.

What freedoms do we take for granted? What freedoms are we willing to fight for?

What rights and privileges might be lost if the coalition starts up the process again achrei ha hagim and it turns out the much vaunted “pause” was actually a bluff? It’s not such a stretch to imagine: Even as he announced he was delaying the votes after the dramatic events on that unprecedented March madness, Bibi took pains to emphasize he still plans to pass the “reform.” What if there’s no compromise and no dialogue in the making? 

Here are 20 examples to get us started. The question now is: What freedoms do you cherish?

1. Freedom to love and freedom to marry – whoever you want, however you want: traditional, secular, religious, gay, straight, with the Rabbinate, online via Utah, in Cypress or Prague, or simply by living together common law style.

2. Freedom to vote – that’s a right no coalition, right, left or center, should ever be able to restrict.

3. Freedom to work in a stimulating and satisfying profession that pays beyond the poverty level. Important corollary: The freedom to choose the core curriculum needed if one wishes to progress economically.

4. Freedom from tyranny and freedom from slavery – Moses experienced both while leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Modern Israelis have now woken up to what that means, too, both real and metaphorical. Who will be our contemporary Moshe?

5. Freedom to dance – even mixed if you so desire. Because we could all use a bit more rock and roll these days.

6. Freedom to eat – whatever you want, including a nice bready sandwich at Hadassah or Ichilov Hospitals over the Passover holiday.

7. Freedom to travel – inside our wonderful country or to one of many exotic destinations (I’m writing this from Ecuador – more on that next time.)

8. Freedom to protest and strike without being labeled a traitor or an anarchist; without being water-cannoned, skunk-sprayed, tasered, or charged by horses. Freedom from arbitrary politically-motivated detention.

9. Freedom from discrimination, whether based on gender, race, social origins, disability or age. No doctor, baker or candlestick maker should have permission to refuse service based on religious beliefs. 

10. Freedom to pray however you like, in whatever synagogue, church, mosque or shrine that suits you, to whatever god – or no god – that speaks to you (or doesn’t).

11. Freedom to speak up without fear of cancellation. May what happened to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant not be a harbinger of a future where the right to free expression is abridged for petty politics. For an in-depth non-Israeli take, listen to the fascinating new podcastThe Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling.

12. Freedom to complain …albeit in moderation. 

13. Freedom to say no to invitations – you don’t have to attend every wedding or bat mitzvah or accept every Shabbat dinner invite! Really.

14. Freedom to hold different opinions as long as it doesn’t harm anyone (other than climate change denial which most definitely causes harm).

15. Freedom from fake news. Here’s an abridged adaptation of the classic Serenity Prayer: Grant us the wisdom to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not, and the courage to change the things we can.

16. Freedom to raise kids with the values you want them to have. Freedom for our kids to then reject those values.

17. Freedom to walk safely at night. While Israel is far safer than strolling the streets of Quito after dusk, there’s still risk. Let’s work to end that.

18. Freedom to laugh at the absurd. Freedom to cry at injustice.

19. Freedom to partake ravenously from the buffet of life. 

20. Freedom to love this country unabashedly, no matter what happens.

A very happy Passover week to all democracy and freedom lovers in Israel and beyond.

I first wrote about freedom for The Jerusalem Post.

Photo by Kristina V on Unsplash

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