CONSIDER: Thoughts about Mitzrayim and Yisrael
In the wake of the violence, turmoil, colonialist control, and ongoing Occupation, we want to acknowledge the distinction between “mitzrayim”- the narrow place- where the story we tell at Passover takes place and Egypt, the modern-day nation state. We are not conflating contemporary Egyptians with the pharaoh and taskmasters that appear in the Passover story. In the U.S., and worldwide, anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia saturate our media and our culture, and we must be vigilant to oppose it and interrupt it at every turn.
The word Yisrael (Israel) when found in the liturgy (religious text) does not refer to the modern nation/state of Israel, rather it derives from the blessing given to Ya’akov (Jacob) by a stranger with whom he wrestles all night. When the stranger is finally pinned, Ya’akov asks him for a blessing. The stranger says,“Your name will no longer be Ya’akov but Yisrael for you have wrestled with G-d and triumphed.” Therefore when we say “Yisrael” in prayer we are referring to being G-d-wrestlers, not Israelis.
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