Many Jews use the Passover seder to discuss the state of Israel and how the brave pioneers took over the land. But here are two stories of a different kind of modern day exodus, painting a very different picture of those events.

From “Justice and Only Justice”

by Naim Ateek

Our town was occupied on May 12, 1948. (The State of Israel was proclaimed two days later.) We lived under occupation for fourteen days. On May 26, the military governor sent for the leading men of the town; at military headquarters, he informed them quite simply and coldly that Beisan must be evacuated by all of its inhabitants within a few hours. My father pleaded with him, “I have nowhere to go with my large family. Let us stay in our home.” But the blunt answer came, “If you do not leave, we will have to kill you.”

I remember vividly my father’s return from headquarters to give us the bad news. With great anguish he said, “We have been given no choice. We must go.” The next two hours were very difficult. I can recall with great precision what happened, almost minute by minute.

My father asked us to carry with us whatever was lightweight yet valuable or important. The military orders were that we should all meet at the center of town in front of the courthouse, not far from my father’s shop. My oldest brother and sisters had each carried a few items to the center of town, hoping to leave them there and return for more. Yet when they got to the courthouse, they found the soldiers had fenced in the area so that whoever reached there was not allowed to leave again. I recall that my father and mother were quite upset because my brother and sisters had not returned. I was asked to run and hurry them back. So I ran to the center of town, only to be caught with them; the same thing happened to both my father and mother when they came themselves. I discovered later – I was not told at the time – why my parents were so terribly anxious: they realized that in one of the baskets left in front of our house to be picked up later was some of the gold we were trying to take with us. In another basket was some fresh bread my mother had been baking that morning when my father came home with the bad news. My brother Michael was worried about a small Philips radio – one of his most precious possessions – that he had bought just before his marriage. When the soldiers occupied Beisan, they ordered people to turn over their radios. It was so difficult for my brother to part with his radio that he hid it in our garden.

My father and brother pleaded with the troops to let them go back to the house to pick up a few more things, but to no avail. Later, however, when we were on the bus passing our house on the way to Nazareth, my father asked the driver to stop for a minute. He did, and we saved the fresh bread, the gold, and the radio. My brother, taking with him a wool blanket from one of the beds, wrapped it around the radio and so smuggled his treasure out of Beisan.

From “My Father was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”

By Ramzy Baroud

After months of bombardment, (my grandfather) Mohammed and his family, along with many of Beit Dara’s villagers would finally and frantically scour their little mud-brick homes, dividing their possessions into those items they would have to part with and those that would be of use on the mysterious journey upon which they would soon embark. The latter amounted to a few old blankets, tea, sugar, rice, cheese, olives… and the scant necessities with which they could afford to burden their one faithful donkey. Coming to this grave decision took months, and resolving once and for all by no means brought a sense of relief. Mohammed sharpened his kitchen knife, the only implement he would have to protect his family should they be ambushed by Jewish militias along the unforeseen journey. Zeinab argued with herself in her mind whether they could afford the weight of packing a second pair of clothes for their five children. She gazed around her modest kitchen, with its soft, earthen floors and simple wooden table in the center of the room. Garlic, peppers, dried mint, thyme and chamomile were all tied in bundles and adorned the earthen walls. At that moment, she felt she would trade her home in Beit Daras for a palace. Mohammed and Zeinab had built this house with their own hands, and while it was humble, it was the place their children were born, where they had escaped poverty and gained prominence and merit among those in the community. Zeinab reminisced, worried about the future, and above all, felt an overwhelming sense of thankfulness for the life she and Mohammed had shared there. In that moment, she realized that the peace and simplicity of life in Beit Daras was something to be coveted by kings.

Spring was one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Palestinian countryside. With apricots, almonds, oranges and lemons in full bloom, the perfume carried itself on the wind for miles. As the villagers embarked on this rite of passage, many grasped a long moment to breathe in the fragrance of the fields and orchards, to snatch a large handful of the earth of Beit Daras, and wrap it in a small piece of cloth and tuck it away for safekeeping. Deeds and keys were also stored safely.

Grandpa Mohammed mounted his faithful donkey with a few of the family’s belongings and his young daughter Mariam. Ibrahim was in his mother’s arms. Ahmad walked alongside his father, and my father, Mohammed, barefoot and confused, trotted behind. It was another trail of tears of sorts.

Marxists are not Zionists

As Marxists we are first and foremost internationalists. We do not support nationalism of any kind, though we understand that people who have experience oppression turn to nationalism as an illusory solution. But as the example of Palestine and Israel shows, what constitutes a freedom from oppression for one people leads to the oppression of another. We stand in solidarity with the working people of both Palestine and Israel in overthrowing the shackles of capitalism, which profits off the continual conflict and prevents a peace that respects the right of all people to live safely with jobs, access to basic resources, and fulfillment in life.

We understand that many Jews have moved to Israel from places where they were persecuted, and we respect that right to seek refuge. However, we urge the workers off all nations to unite against the capitalist system which oppresses us all and creates the conditions for anti-Semitism and other discrimination. Israel is facing the same capitalist crisis as the diaspora. The only real salvation we will find is by our own hands, taking over the means of production and finally ruling ourselves.

haggadah Section: -- Exodus Story