The Passover of Peace: A Seder for the Children of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah

The Passover of Peace:

A Seder for the Children
of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Guide to the Seder

We suggest using the new Seder for the Children of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah as an organizing tool for Israeli-Palestinian peace-making.

The new Seder draws deeply on the Biblical and Quranic accounts of Hagar, Ishmael, Sarah, and Isaac, and includes as part of its "Telling" eyewitness accounts of the sufferings of both Israelis and Palestinians, and their acts of peacemaking.

A communal Seder for the Children of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah could also become a context for organizing. For example, by holding it on an evening that is not a festival night when writing or using money is traditionally avoided, you could invite signatures and contributions for a local Break-The-Silence ad or other action toward peace.

You could invite local Jewish, Arab, and general media and win broad attention for a new approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. (The media like to cover Passover events.)

This Seder has been "woven" by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, author of The Freedom Seder, director of The Shalom Center, and co-author of The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Peace and Hope for Jews, Christians, and Muslims (Beacon). It is modeled on but textually and liturgically different from the "Seder of the Children of Abraham" written by Rabbi Devora Bartnoff z'tz'l, Catherine Essoyan, Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, and Rabbi Brian Walt and published in 1984.

If this possibility appeals to you, we strongly urge you to begin planning a communal or congregational Seder NOW; and to use it to create your own Seder.

The Seder could be held at home; at and by your synagogue or havurah or Hillel House; or as a community-wide event organized by an independent committee. It can be held as a Jewish event, or as a joint effort by Jews and Arab-Americans.

If you are already involved with an Arab-Jewish dialogue group, you might explore doing this together. If not, you can write Leonard & Libby Traubman, who are in touch with a national network of such dialogue groups, for information on how to do this. Their Email address is


The Shalom Center undertook considerable expense in preparing this Seder and in continuing to prepare liturgies for peace; please contribute $36 as basic fee plus $4 per participant (in line with four cups of wine/grape juice) to help make this work possible. (Shalom Center, 6711 Lincoln Drive, Philadelphia PA 19119) Thank you.


Woven by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Copyright (c) 1999, 2002, 2006 by Arthur Waskow

[Prepare the Seder table with (1) a plate of four sheets of matzah (unleavened bread); (2) another plate that holds (a) sprigs of mint or parsley, (b) a paste of ground horse-radish, (c) a separate paste — charoset (made of chopped nuts, raisins, apples, and grape juice), a (d) roasted egg; and (e) olives; (3) a bowl of strongly salted water; and (4) several bottles of unfermented red grape juice.]

[Reader says aloud:] In the name of God, the Compassionate! [All present respond:] In the name of God, the Compassionate! (Hand everyone a cup of grape juice.)

[Reader says:] We begin with the cup of Spring, when earth awakes and peoples come to birth.

[All recite three blessings: one over the fruit of the grapevine, one over all the nations, and Sheh'hekhianu, the blessing at a moment of renewal:]

Blessed are You, the Breath of Life, Who breathed into the earth of an ancient land the vine that brings forth fruit that brings forth juice as red as blood — the joyful juice of grapes that give us not death but life.

Blessed are You Who taught: "In that day Israel shall be the third alongside Egypt and Assyria, each a blessing in the midst of the earth — for YHWH [pronounce Yahh, with a strong sense of breathing] of the multitudes has blessed each, saying: 'Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.' (Isaiah 19 :24)

Blessed are You, Breath of Life, Who has filled us with life, lifted us up, and carried us to this moment.

[All drink.]

[All sing: Shalu shalom Yiru-shalaiim] (4)
Shalom, shalom, shalom, shalom
Shalom, shalom —
Shalu shalom Yiru-shalaiim.
Pray for the peace of Yisrael, Pray for the peace of Yishmael, Pray for the peace of all the world — The whole world shall live in peace.


Od yavo shalom alenu (3) V'al kulam.
Salaam. . . alenu v'al kol ha'olam
Salaam . . .. salaam . . ..
{May peace yet come to us — and to all; to us and all the world.]

[Give everyone a sprig of mint or similar greens, pass a bowl of salt water, and have everyone dip the mint into the water.]

[Together all recite:] Blessed are You, Breath of Life, Who breathes life into adam and adamah, into human-earthling and the earthy-humus, Who brings forth from the earth what keeps the human alive, and brings forth from the human the compassion that restores life to the earth.

[Everyone eats the sprig of mint. (From this point on, everyone should feel free to eat greens and other raw vegetables from plates at the table.)]

[Reader:] We lift the second cup: the cup of memory. (Say again the blessing over the fruit of the grapevine, and drink.)

[All read together:]

We are taught: "And you shall tell your child on that day, saying: "It is because of what the Breath of Life did for me, breathing me forth from slavery in the Narrow Place.' " For it was not only our forebears that the Breath of Life freed, but us as well. So in every generation, let every human being look upon himself, herself, as if we all came out of the Narrow Place today.

[One reads]: For us today, one Narrow Place is the place of bloodshed that comes from war between the two families of Abraham — the family that calls him Ibrahim and the family that calls him Avraham — the children of Hajar/ Hagar through her child Ismail/ Yishmael and the children of Sarah through her child Yitzchak/ Is'haq.

[Another reads:] May the Narrow Place through which we move become the narrow birth canal, may the blood we have shed become the blood of birthing! — For today we tell both the story of the Narrow Place that holds us in its grip, and the story of turning that Narrow Place into the birth canal for two new peoples and a new way of being, a new way of living face to face in the Land that gave two peoples birth.

Where shall we begin the story? — Like the traditional Haggadah, we will have two tellings: One that tells the story of our ancestors, and one that tells the conflict of our two peoples in this century.

Let us start by looking at the way Yitzchak/Is'haq and Ismail/Yishmael are seen in the sacred texts of our two peoples.


Avraham was childless... and he came in to Hagar [whose name can be understood as "HaGer, the stranger"] and she conceived...] and the messenger of YHWH said to her:


I will make your seed many, many /Too many to count. /You shall bear a son. /You shall call him Yishmael / God Hears — /For God has heard your suffering.

[Reader:] Free-running human he shall be, /His hand in everyone's/ And everyone's hand with him. /And then — facing all his kinfolk shall he dwell.

[Community:] So she called the name of YHWH... "You God of Seeing!"... Therefore the well [where God's messenger gave forth this prophecy] was called Be'er Lachai Ro'i, the Well of The Living One Who Sees Me.

[Reader:] And God said to Avraham, "As for your wife Sarai / You shall not call her name Sarai /For Sarah (Princess) is her name. / I will bless her; / I will give you a son by her / I will bless her so that she shall give rise to nations; / Rulers of peoples shall issue from her. " /And as for Yishmael (God Hears), I hear you; /Here, I will make him blessed, /I will make him bear fruit, /I will make him many, beyond and beyond; /He will beget twelve leaders / And a great nation I will make of him.

"...Sarah your wife shall bear you a son /You shall call his name Isaac (Laughing One); I will raise up my covenant with him As an everlasting covenant for his off-spring after him. And my covenant I will raise up with Isaac Whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year."

[Reader:] And from the Quran, the story of Ismail:

He was strictly true to what he promised and he was an apostle and a prophet. He used to enjoin on his people prayer and charity, and he was most acceptable in the sight of the Lord.

[Reader:] And we gave Abraham the good news of Isaac, a prophet, one of the Righteous. We blessed Abraham and Isaac.

And remember Abraham and Ismail raised the foundations of the house with this prayer: Our Lord! Accept this service from us for thou art the All Hearing the All Knowing Our Lord make of us submissive bowing to thy will and of our progeny a people submissive bowing to thy will.

[Reader:] And again from the Torah: Avraham died at a good ripe age, and was gathered to his people.
Community: Yitzchak and Yishmael his sons buried him In the cave of Machpelah... Now it was after Abraham's death that God blessed Isaac his son, And Yitzchak settled by the Well of the Living One Who Sees Me...

These are the years of the life of Yishmael: One hundred years and thirty years and seven years, Then he breathed out. He died and was gathered to his people. Now they dwelt from Havila to Shur, which faces Egypt, Back to where you come to Assyria; Facing all his kinfolk did he live.

[A reader:] What questions emerge from the reading of these texts? Are there visions for reconciliation in these verses?
In Jewish tradition, Isaac is the son who is bound in order to be sacrificed. In Muslim tradition it is Ishmael. In our generation, both peoples, the Israeli and the Palestinian, have faced the possibility of destruction, of being sacrificed.

[Another reader:] 
Why are we Jews asked, year after year on Rosh Hashanah, to read the story of Hagar and Ishmael? Cherie Brown, a counselor and coalition-builder who lives in Washington, D.C., teaches Four Teachings:

The first teaching: Ishmael exists. On this holy Day of Remembrance we are asked to Remember his existence.

The second teaching: There is no pain that is so great, no estrangement that is so final that reconciliation is not possible. Despite the separate paths of Isaac and Ishmael and the creation of two separate peoples, with distinct and separate identities and histories, the story requires us to remember that Ishmael and Isaac will always have the same father. Their fates will always be inextricably tied to one another.

The third teaching: When we refuse to respond to the cry of Hagar, the cry of the stranger, when we only focus on our own worries and concerns and fail to hear the cry of our brother, our sister — we condemn ourselves to living desperate lives, cut off from our own humanity.

God heard the cry of Hagar and Ishmael. Are we not meant to follow God's lead?

And the fourth teaching, for me the most important: We are being asked on Rosh Hashanah to stop seeing ourselves always as the victim, and to stop living a life based on victimization.
After all, it was not Isaac who was forced to wander in the desert. It was Hagar and Ishmael. If the teachers of Torah wanted us to focus on our own history of victimization on this most important day (and God knows there are enough examples from our history to draw on) wouldn't we have a different passage to listen to?

[Reader:] We lift the third cup: the cup of determination. (Say again the blessing over the fruit of the grapevine, and drink.)

Why is this Pesach night different from every other Pesach night?
Because tonight two peoples
Call out to each other: "Let our people go!"
Tonight the children of Hagar through Ishmael and the children of Sarah through Isaac call out to each other:
We too are children of Abraham! We are cousins, you and we!
As Isaac and Ishmael once met at Be'er LaChai Ro-i, the Well of the Living One Who Sees,
So it is time for us to meet —
Time for us to see each other, face to face.
Time for us to make peace with each other.
They met for the sake of their dead father, Abraham;
We must meet for the sake of our dead children — Dead at each others' hands.
For the sake of our children's children, So that they not learn to kill.
So tonight we ask each other Four More Questions:

[From the plate with four slices of matzah, lift the bottom slice. Say aloud:]

"This is the bread of affliction: It is whole, and so long as it is whole, no one can eat from it."

[ Now break it; let everyone see these two pieces.]

(1) Why do we break the matzah in two? Because the bread of affliction becomes the bread of freedom --when we share it. Because the Land that gives bread to two peoples must be divided in two, so that both peoples may eat of it. So long as one people grasps the whole land, it is a land of affliction, and no one is nourished by it. When each people can eat from part of the Land, it will become a land of freedom.

[Pass the broken pieces of matzah from hand to hand. Each person breaks off a piece and hands that piece to someone else. Together they say:]

"Blessed is the Breath of Life, Who brings forth bread from the earth and compassion from each earthy-human." [Everyone eats.]

[Someone reads:] A letter from Dalia Landau, a teacher and counselor living in Jerusalem, who served as an officer in the Israel Defence Forces, to Bashir Khayri, a lawyer, who had been deported to Lebanon the day before.

January 14, 1988
Dear Bashir,
We got to know each other 20 years ago. Ever since, we have become part of each other's lives. Now I hear that you are about to be deported.

After the Six Day War, you came with two other people to see the house in Ramle where you were born. This was my first encounter with Palestinians. My family and I had been living in that house since 1948, just after your family was forced to leave. — You were a child of six then, and I was a year old. We had come to the new state of Israel together with 50,000 other Bulgarian Jews, and your house was considered "abandoned property".

Following your first visit in 1967, I accepted your invitation to visit you in Ramallah, where I found myself surrounded by hospitality. We talked for hours and established a warm personal connection. However, it became clear that our political views were very far apart. Each of us saw through the lens created by the suffering of his own people.

But some change in perspective was beginning to take place in me. One unforgettable day, your father came to our house in Ramle, accompanied by your brother. Your father was then old and blind. He touched the rugged stones of the house. He then asked if the lemon tree was still in the backyard. He was led to the abundant tree, which he had planted many years before. He caressed it and stood silent. Tears were rolling down his face.

Many years later, after the death of your father, your mother told me that, whenever he felt troubled at night and could not sleep, he would pace up and down your rented house in Ramallah, holding a shriveled lemon in his hand.

It was the same lemon my father had given him on that visit.

Ever since I met you, the feeling has been growing in me that home was not just my home. The lemon tree which yielded so much fruit and gave us so much delight lived in other people's hearts, too. The spacious house with its high ceilings, big windows, and large grounds was no longer just an "Arab house," a desirable form of architecture. It had faces behind it now.

The walls evoked other people's memories and tears.
It was very painful for me, as a young woman 20 years ago, to wake up to a few then-well-hidden facts. For example, we were all led to believe that the Arab population of Ramle and Lod had run away before the advancing Israeli army in 1948, leaving everything behind in a rushed and cowardly escape.
This belief reassured us. It was meant to prevent guilt and remorse.

But after 1967, I met not only you, but also an Israeli Jew who had personally participated in the expulsion from Ramle and Lod. He told me the story as he had experienced it, and as Yitzhak Rabin later confirmed in his memoirs.

While I was learning to live with these painful facts, you were imprisoned. You were charged with planting a bomb that killed several civilians. My heart aches for those murdered even now. For your crime, you sat in prison for fifteen years. Passing the Ramle prison on my way to work, I often wondered if you were there. I never had the courage to ask. It was too painful.

After my marriage and the death of my parents, I inherited the house in Ramle. I shared our story with my husband, and he and I both felt that we wanted to dedicate that house to some healing purpose.

Following your release from prison, we sought you out and met you. I felt that you and I, your family and mine, were bound by a strange destiny, that the house with which our childhood memories were connected had forced us to face each other.

However, our conversations revealed that, despite the passage of time, your basic position has not changed — and this makes it impossible to find common ground. Perhaps some day, if we are both willing to make sacrifices, some kind of mutual forgiveness may yet emerge.

[The Landaus turned the Ramle property into the site of the Open House project, providing educational services to the Arab community in Ramle and serving as a meeting center for Arabs and Jews.)

Now there are homes that have been turned into dust. Gila Svirsky, an Israeli who lives in Jerusalem, an organizer of Bat Shalom — Israeli women who work closely with Palestinian women — writes an open letter she calls "Lena Doesn't Live Here Anymore."

Yesterday was a day I won't ever forget. Neither will Salim and Arabiyeh Shawamreh or their six children. We had planned a joint Israeli-Palestinian protest against home demolitions. The idea was to set up a tent on the site of a demolition, a tent that would serve several purposes: protest, solidarity, documentation, and compassionate listening to the family members.

We planned to move this tent from site to site, wherever the Israeli army used its bulldozers. Yesterday's inauguration of the tent was planned for opposite the so-called "civil administration" headquarters — the nerve center of Israel's control of the occupied territories — those who actually do the dirty work of demolishing people's homes and other acts of oppression.

Our bus from Jerusalem held activists from several peace movements — Bat Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights, Gush Shalom, and Peace Now. We are all partners in a coalition called the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, and our demonstration was to be held jointly with the Palestinian Land Defense General Committee.

Through the bus microphone, I listened to Meir Margalit explain the action and sketch one chilling scenario. "If the soldiers try to prevent us from holding the demonstration, proceed in an orderly manner to the planned alternative site. There must not be violence on our side, but if the army engages in violence, do not separate from the Palestinians. The army will be more brutal to the Palestinians if the soldiers manage to separate us."

Suddenly a call came across a mobile phone and Meir took the mike again. "We have just had word that a demolition is taking place at this very moment not far from here." At once we turned toward Anata on the edge of Jerusalem, a town composed almost entirely of Palestinian refugees who had lived in the Old City of Jerusalem and fled in 1967. They thought they had found refuge in Anata.

After driving the narrow unpaved streets of Anata for what seemed an interminable time, w still had to walk 10 minutes down narrow, zig-zagging dirt roads between crowded homes until we came to the outskirts of Anata. We ran toward the edge of the hill and saw below a beautiful home set into the pastoral valley, one of its walls now crumpled into rubble by a roaring bulldozer; a family and neighbors sobbing nearby; and a unit of Israeli soldiers preventing anyone else from approaching.

We surged down the hill in our small group until the soldiers blocked our progress with their guns and bodies. There were scuffles trying to get past them, but more soldiers joined the barricade. M.K. Naomi Chazan who was with us demanded to see the order proclaiming this a "closed military zone", as the soldiers claimed, and after several long minutes the officer complied. Who knows if the order was genuine or invented at the last minute? But the guns were real.

So there we stood on the side of the hill and watched with an unbearable sense of helplessness as the "civil" administration's bulldozer took the house apart wall by wall. He drove through the front garden with a profusion of flowers and a lemon tree and slammed the front door as if he were God Almighty.

Backing away, he slammed again until the entire front was shattered and dangling from metal rods. Then he came from every side, slamming and crashing his shovel against the walls. Finally he lifted off the roof, barely suspended, and sent it crashing below. When that was done, he went around the back of the house and crashed through all the fruit trees, including a small olive stand.

He saw a water tank on a platform and knocked that over, the tank tumbling down and a cascade of water drenching the trees now uprooted and broken. He saw two more tanks nearby and knocked those over as well. I have never seen anyone in the Middle East deliberately waste so much water.

Then he noticed a shack in the corner of the yard and he churned over to that, his cleated treads grinding and squealing over the rubble he had to climb over. The shack was an easy swipe for his shovel, and we were surprised to see two doves fly out, one white and one black, frightened out of their wits. They flapped their wings briefly and landed not far from their former home.

All the while, a crowd of Palestinian neighbors and young men were gathering behind us on the mountain crest, cat-calling and jeering. From our Israeli group, many engaged the soldiers in challenges: "How can you sleep at night?"; "Is this what is meant by defending Israel?"; "Don't you understand the immorality of this action?", and the like.

Every single soldier, from the high commander to the lowest GI responded the same way: "This is legal; we're only following orders." One woman tried to yell at the bulldozer driver everytime there was a lull in the din. But nothing we could think to say stopped the roar of devastation.

By then I had managed to move down past the soldiers and was with the family outside their former home. One woman was sobbing and I put my arms around her. When I began to cry too, she put her arms around me. A weeping girl joined us and we both encircled her with our arms. I later learned that this was 14-year-old Lena and this house had once been hers.

Then suddenly, gunshots rang out. Some of the young Palestinian men had begun throwing stones — from a very great distance, I note — and Israeli soldiers retaliated by opening fire and running up the hill after them. The soldiers were shooting as they ran, setting off their guns like the wild west.

I saw the commander and told him that this was illegal, a clear violation of the "open fire regulations" of the Israeli army, which stipulate that a soldier's life be in danger before he opens fire. I demanded repeatedly that he tell the soldiers to stop. The commander shrugged and didn't bother answering. After 10 minutes or so, the shooting stopped.

Amazingly, no "stray" bullets had hit any of our group, although the Palestinians, as usual, were not so lucky. A man approached the crowd of neighbors, said a few words, and instantly two women let out piercing shrieks and tore up the hill, running at top speed. The son of one of them had been hit by a bullet. I don't know his condition. Already in the hospital was Arabiyeh, the mother of the family, who had been violently struck by soldiers when she tried to prevent them from destroying her home.

By then there was nothing to do but sift through the rubble. I picked through the rocks and talked to Jeff Halper, who is organizing the program to "adopt" Palestinian families whose homes are slated for demolition. Jeff had sat in the living room of this home last week, now a pile of jagged concrete slabs, hearing Salim and Arabiyeh talk about the problem of Palestinians not being issued construction permits.

"Just last night," Salim had told Jeff during the demolition, "friends and family had sat in this home watching the World Cup soccer game". Now there are 6 children without tv, toys, books, diapers, bottles, or a place to lay their heads. Instead, they remain with the trauma of the Israeli bulldozer turning their home and security into a bottomless pit of hatred for this occupation and the people who carry it out.

A lot of us picked up olive branches from the yard as we walked back to the buses. Most of the branches, like mine, were crushed by the treads of power run amuck.

For the first time, I also noticed the scenery around us. On a nearby mountain — not a distant one, mind you — were the classrooms and amphitheater of the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University. Had they looked out their classroom window, the students studying ethics and justice could have had a clear view of the scene of brute power and the trampling of this family's lives.

And surrounding everything, on mountains and hilltops to our left, right, and center, were the bright orange rooftops of the settler homes in the Occupied Territories. The settlers have no problem whatsoever in getting construction permits. And no one would dare uproot their olive trees, waste their water, harm their homes, or turn their children out into the streets.

This long, sad story must not end here. Our group, the same people and more I hope, will be going back next Friday to begin rebuilding this home. This is a new tradition of non-violent resistance that began a few weeks ago, and is gaining momentum. The Palestinians rebuild, the Israeli army demolishes, and they rebuild again. As one of the neighbors said, "We'll see who lasts longer."

Please, please, please use your power to get this to stop. The messages you have sent are incredibly effective — foreign political leaders have begun to raise the issue of home emolitions with Israeli leaders. Write a brief message to several people — especially the leaders of America and Israel. Tell them that the Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes must be stopped. Say it in the subject line, so they get the point quickly. And circulate this letter to more people.

[Hand two sprigs of mint to everyone; have each person dip one sprig in the horse-radish, and one in the sweet charoset paste.]

[All say together:] Blessed are You, Breath of Life, Who breathes life into adam and adamah, into human-earthling and the earthy-humus, Who brings forth from the earth what keeps the human alive, and brings forth from the human the compassion that restores life to the earth.

[Each person eats first the sprig dipped in horse-radish, then the one dipped in charoset.]

(2) Why do we dip herbs three times, once in salt water, once in bitter herbs, and once in sweet charoset? First for the tears of two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian; then for the bitterness of both peoples, tasting ruined lives; and then for the sweetness of two peoples, Palestinian and Israeli. For the future of both peoples, who must learn not to repeat the sorrows of the past but to create the joys of the future.

On March 14, 1997, the Jerusalem Post retold an eyewitness account of new bloodshed:

"We got out of the bus at the observation point and started to see all the process of the pumps at the (former) Naharim electricity plant. In the middle of the description, suddenly we heard a burst of fire. I looked up and saw a Jordanian soldier firing from the observation tower.

"I shouted to the girls to go down the bank which was covered in mustard plants in bloom. The girls started to take cover as one burst came after another.

"The soldier saw that he was not succeeding, so he came after us to the edge (of the slope) and started firing at us from face-to-face distance. He had to change a magazine and when he did so, which didn't work, that was the end of it. It was a nightmare. I still can't take in what happened here.

"I started to call the girls who were around me and saw that some of them didn't answer me. I said to myself, 'What will happen until help comes?' so I started to push them into the field and covered them until help came.

"They are hysterical. We didn't tell them all the truth. We told them that some are wounded and some of them would not be coming back to us."

Within days, King Hussein of Jordan came to visit the seven Israeli families whose children had been killed. He said to them, "No words can express how I personally feel, how my family feels, how my people feel. We consider this a loss that all of us suffered. I feel that I have lost a child, and I feel that if there is anything in life, it is to insure that all the children enjoy peace and security. I hope you consider me a brother and a member of the family."

[Reader: Another letter from Gila Svirsky:]

Since the bulldozers began scarring the land at Jabal Abu Ghaneim [Har Homa], a tiny tent "city" of about a dozen tents has sprung up on the hillside opposite. For the last couple weeks, hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis have come to this site every day (and some have slept there) — to protest, express solidarity, and make it clear to one another that this is a struggle that we share. Neither side can do it alone.

Last Thursday (yesterday for me), thanks to the wonderful organizing of Rapprochement — a joint Israeli-Palestinian dialogue group that has persisted through the past 9 years — hundreds of children, women, and men from many Israeli and Palestinian peace organizations came together on the hillside to call for the bulldozers to stop.

The media were there and the speeches were moving: Representatives of a dozen organizations spoke eloquently about ending the bloodshed, creating a Palestinian state, sharing Jerusalem as a capital, finding a way to live together cooperatively on this land cherished by both peoples. Their words seemed so clear and compelling as they carried across the valley, a reflection of the spring flowers pushing their way out of the rocky terrain around us.

But perhaps the most encouraging part was the children. The organizers had set up swings and slides, and set mattresses down so the children would have softer landings. Soon they were playing hide-'n-seek together ("Mommy, count to 10 in Arabic for me"; "Daddy, tell him in Hebrew that it's his turn to hide").

Then it was time to draw pictures of the landscape, and suddenly 50 portraits appeared of the blue skies and green covered hill opposite. The children posed as a group holding their crayoned drawings out in front of them, as the media caught their hopeful perceptions, eclipsing for a moment the harsher political reality behind them.

We adults settled into comfortable conversations, enjoying the balmy weather, the repertoire of a Palestinian children's folk dance troupe, camaraderie, and a break from the intensity. I heard some "un-organized" singing at a distance and went to observe. It was a group of Israeli and Palestinian children, perhaps 8 to 10 years old, sitting on the ground completely mixed up with one another, trying to sing "Heveinu Shalom Aleikhem" together, which the Palestinian children rendered as "Shalom Aleifa".

The Hebrew words literally mean "we bring peace to you"; in Israel, the intent is "welcome".

When that was over, the Palestinian children sang with gusto "Biladi" — "my country" — which has spontaneously become the national anthem of the Palestinians. These children will grow into adulthood creating their own state. It reminded me of the fervor of the Jewish children who helped create their own state of Israel. Too much fervor on both sides to ever extinguish, I thought to myself.

The afternoon continued at that shifting pace — fervor alternating with tranquillity — and then two small groups of women separated themselves — Israelis from Bat Shalom and Palestinians from the adjoining village of Beit Sahur. Together we formed a joint delegation to pay a condolence call at the home of the Salah family, whose son Abdallah had been killed last Saturday by Israeli cross-fire in the territories.

We filed into the room and each woman, in turn, spoke a few quiet words to the mother who sat stonily in the corner. We took seats around the room — by then we were perhaps 40 women there - - and some of the women began to weep. One of them said that the grandparents of the boy were refugees of 1948...from Jerusalem, of course.

A man came in and stood at the doorway. "I am the father of Abdallah, the martyr," he announced in fluent Hebrew. "My son, the student," he added. He then made a speech that sounded — and he said it was — rehearsed repeatedly in the media over the past five days: "My son was never in trouble with the army a single day of his life. He was a good student and going to be an engineer. The floor I built over our heads was for him when he would get married." It was a moving eulogy, spoken with much love and tears.

One of the women from Bat Shalom said a few words about the sorrow we felt over Abdallah's death, and our prayers that there would be no more violence and bloodshed.

That opened a flood of wrath from the mother. "Where are the Israelis when my boy is killed? Where is the world? Why did King Hussein get down on his knees to ask forgiveness in Israel, but Netanyahu does nothing? He is a dog, the son of a dog, and I would kill him with my bare hands, if I could."

We sat and listened to her unanswerable questions, responded when she allowed us, listened to her unquenchable fury, offered her words and tears, heard her rage, and one of the Israeli women kept her hand on her arm throughout. The mother would not cry among us, as the father had let himself do. When she drew to an end, the women stood up.

"May Allah have mercy on his soul," we each said as we embraced her before parting. As we left the home, each of us was handed a glossy picture of Abdallah: a skinny, serious-looking 21-year-old. He looked like he would have made a fine engineer.

(3) Why does the Torah teach: "When a stranger lives-as-a-stranger with you in your land, you shall not oppress him. The stranger who lives-as-a-stranger [hager hagar] with you shall be as one of your citizens; you shall love her as yourself."

Because this Torah teaches: Hagar HaMitzria [Hagar the Egyptian] was a stranger in our midst, and we oppressed her; We were strangers in the Land of Egypt, and the Land of Rome, and the Land of Spain, and the Land of Germany — and they oppressed us;

Therefore — When once again Hagar/ The Stranger lives with you, you shall not oppress her; you shall love the stranger as yourself.

[Reader:] We lift the fourth cup: the cup of covenant and hope. (Say again the blessing over the fruit of the grapevine, and drink.)

The Four Children

Four children bring different questions to the Seder table tonight:
The angry child asks, "Why should I compromise?"
And we answer that we choose the route of compromise because the alternative is the mutual destruction, both moral and physical, of our two peoples. If we fail to compromise, we will lose a vision of the future for our children.

The naive child asks, "Why can't we just love each other?"
And we answer that neither of us can live as if history has not happened. Unfortunately, too much blood has already been shed on both sides. It takes time to build trust.

The frightened child asks, "How can I be safe?"
And we answer that we are both afraid. "How can I be safe if my brother or sister is not safe?"

The wise child asks, "How can we take the steps that walk in peace, toward peace?"

This is the question we wrestle with tonight. But this is a question that goes beyond tonight. For in each one us lives all four children: Each of us bears in our own belly the angry one, the frightened one, the naive one, the wise one. Which of these children shall we bring to birth? Only if we can deeply hear all four of them can we truthfully answer the fourth question. Only if we can deeply hear all four of them can we bring to birth a child, a people, that is truly wise.

(4) Why is there an egg upon the Pesach plate?

It is the egg of birthing.

When the midwives Shifrah and Puah
Saved the children that Pharaoh ordered them to kill,
That was the beginning of the birth-time;
When Pharaoh's daughter joined with Miriam
To give a second birth to Moses from the waters,
She birthed herself anew into God's daughter, Bat-yah,
And our people turned to draw ourself toward life.
When God became our Midwife
And named us Her firstborn,
Though we were the smallest and youngest of the peoples,
The birthing began; When the waters of the Red Sea broke, We were delivered. So tonight it is our task to help the Midwife Who tonight is giving birth to two new peoples —
For tonight only Hagar can give a new birth to the children of Israel,
And only Sarah can give a new birth to the children of Ishmael.
Our lives are in each other's hands.
No Pharaoh can force us to kill.

[Sing this song or "Isaac and ishmael" by Leila Gal Berner, below.]

"Sarah and Hagar" — Copyright © by Linda Hirschhorn 1985, l997, recorded on The Shalom Center's CD "Sing Shalom!" Available from The Shalom Center.

I am calling you oh Sarah -- this is your sister Hagar / calling through the centuries to reach you from afar
/ Here is my son Ishmael your sister's son alive / we share the sons of Abraham two peoples one tribe
/ Oh yes I am your Sarah I remember you Hagar / your voice comes through the distance a cry upon my heart
/ It was I who cast you out in fear and jealousy / yet your vision survived the wilderness to reach your destiny
/ But it wasn't till my Isaac lay under the knife / that I recognized your peril the danger to your life
/ I tremble now Hagar for our peril's still the same / we will not survive as strangers we must speak each other's name.
/ We must tell each others' stories, make each other strong / and sing the dream of ancient lands where both of us belong
/ we must hear the prayers where spirit first was sown / that all of our children may call this land their home.

[If the Seder is being held on April 4, use this passage as it is. If not, modify as necessary.]

Reader: Tonight we gather on the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King. He taught us how to act when the path ahead is harsh and dimly lit:

"However dismal and catastrophic may be the present circumstances, we know that we are not alone, for God dwells with us in life's most confining and oppressive cells."

On the very night before his death, he called to mind the ancient images of freedom from the Narrow Place, of journey toward the Promised Land:

"I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy tonight, I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!"

"O Ishmael, My Brother."
(By Amy Azen)

O Ishmael... Listen. It is Isaac speaking. Too long have we crossed swords over Sinai, Too long has there been desert between us, Where nothing grows. Only Death. Let there be peace.
One night, At the foot of Sabbath, I waited for you.
You said you would come to Jerusalem, And meet me face to face. I watched you, Ishmael, As you rode above the desert sand, On a strange, colossal camel, With smoking hooves, Across a cloudless sky. You alighted. And I ran to meet you, And held out both my hands. I have waited for this moment Countless generations. We wept and embraced.
O Ishmael, How long shall we wage war with one another? How long must there be rancor and mistrust? How much more blood must still be spilled Before the final epic? How many shall we shovel in the sand?
O Ishmael, Let us be reconciled at last, In the field of the dead, By the gravestones of our beloved sons, As we were once long ago By the field of Ephron, In the cave of Machpelah, When we buried Our father, Abraham.

"ISAAC AND ISHMAEL" Copyright 1989 © by Leila Gal Berner. recorded on The Shalom Center's CD "Sing Shalom!" Available from The Shalom Center.

(First two verses can be sung in Hebrew/Arabic and / or English)

Shalom aleichem, aleichem shalom, shalom Shalom aleichem, aleichem shalom.
I. Sh'mi Yitzchak, ayeh achi, ayeh achi? Sh'mi Yitzchak, ayeh achi Yishmael?
My name is Isaac, where's my brother? Where's my brother? My name is Isaac, where's my brother Ishmael?
Salaam aleikum, aleikum salaam, salaam Salaam aleikum, aleikum salaam
II. Ismi Isma'il, wayn achi, wayn achi? Ismi Isma'il, wayn achi, Is-hak?
My name is Ishmael,where's my brother? Where's my brother? My name is Ishmael, where's my brother Isaac?
Shalom aleichem, aleichem shalom, shalom Shalom aleichem, aleichem shalom.
III. Born on the same Land Guided by the same God's hand We were torn apart, And it broke our father's heart.
I was bound on the altar. You were left to wander. Both of us sacrificed, And it broke our father's heart.
Salaam aleikum, aleikum salaam, salaam Salaam aleikum, aleikum salaam.
IV. When our father Abraham died, We laid him down, you and I. Then our brother's bonds were broken, And it broke our father's heart.
Our children's children don't know why They must fight and kill and die.
We are slaughtering eachother — It breaks our father's heart.
Shalom aleichem, aleichem shalom, shalom Shalom aleichem, aleichem shalom.
V. O Isaac — I dream of you in the desert sands! O Ishmael — I dream of you in the hills!
O Ishmael — can we share our father's Land? O Isaac — can our mothers, too, be friends again?
Salaam aleikum, aleichem shalom, salaam Shalom aleichem, aleikum salaam.
O Isaac — can we live free at last? O Ishmael — with justice in the land?
We are brothers - can we live in peace again? O Abraham - can we heal your broken heart?
Salaam aleikum, aleichem shalom, salaam Shalom aleichem, aleikum salaam.

Copyright 1989 © by Leila Gal Berner. recorded on The Shalom Center's CD "Sing Shalom!" Available from The Shalom Center.

[End with either of the songs from the beginning. Eat dinner, and end the dinner by saying this blessing and then eating olives:]

Blessed are You, the Breath of Life, Who breathes our breath into the olive tree and brings forth from the tree the olive – fruit of peace and hope and abundance. May all the children of Noah and Naamah, all the children of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah, protect these trees and harvest these olives in peace.

[After eating the olive, sing:]

From You I receive,
To You I give;
Together we share, And from this we live.

[Continue with the songs] "We Shall Overcome" and —]
And everyone 'neath vine and figtree shall live in peace and unafraid (2)
And into plowshares beat their swords; nation shall learn war no more (2). *

This effort was initiated by The Shalom Center, 6711 Lincoln Drive, Philadelphia PA 19119; 215/844-8494. E-mail:

The Shalom Center undertook considerable expense in preparing this Seder; if you can, please contribute to defray these expenses. Thank you.

This Seder draws upon the model Seder of the Children of Abraham created by Rabbi Devorah Bartnoff, z'l; Catherine Essoyan; Rabbi Mordechai Liebling; and Rabbi Brian Walt, compiled by New Jewish Agenda, and published by Adama Books in 1984, through the efforts of Reena Bernards, Jeffrey Dekro, and Esther Cohen.

Most of the selections from Torah and Quran were chosen for the 1984 Seder, and most of the "Four Children" passage appeared there. Wherever a new passage or liturgy is not otherwise credited, it is by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center, who also shaped the Seder.

Naomi Mara Hyman and David F. Waskow helped trace some sources. Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Arthur Waskow.

# Abraham is called Avraham in Hebrew, Ibrahim in Arabic; Hagar is called Hajar in Arabic; Isaac is called Yitzchak in Hebrew, Is'haq in Arabic; Ishmael, Yishmael in Hebrew, Isma'il in Arabic.

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