Barry Rubin wasn’t crazy about President Obama’s ‘Passover message’ either.
I think the greater problem here is the endless universalizing of specifically Jewish experiences that are never seen as sufficient in their own right, as well as the basic opportunism of making Passover into an event backing Obama Administration policy.
But a peculiar personal experience of mine has given this controversy a special meaning for me. Some years ago I attended a dinner in Washington that was one of those endless–and always futile–events bringing together Arabs and Israelis for “dialogue.” Since it was during the Passover table, the thoughtful hosts had placed matzo on the table.
One of the Egyptians, a relatively moderate diplomat who had built a whole second career in the peace process industry, said in an annoyed voice something like: “Isn’t this a Jewish holiday that celebrates a victory over the Egyptians?”
I had a fraction of a second in which I knew I had to think of the perfect answer. And it came to me. I replied, “That was during Jahiliyya times.” He nodded with understanding and the problem was solved.
The Jahiliyya era, for Muslims, was the time of pre-Islamic paganism and ignorance. In the Koran, the pharoah was a villain. So if it happened then he could see the “Egyptians” as having nothing to do with him and accept that the pharoah was a bad guy who deserved to be drowned in the sea.
Here’s the problem. When radical Islamists killed President Anwar al-Sadat, they said, “I shot the pharoah.” One of the reasons that Sadat was assassinated was because he made peace with Israel. Another reason was that he opposed making Egypt an Islamist state. Now that President Husni Mubarak has been overthrown, he’s referred to as the pharoah for reasons including those two.
An important lesson from Jewish experience–for those willing to heed it–is that change is not always good and that some things never change. But after all, the Jews were doing pretty well in ancient Egypt until there came a pharoah who knew not Joseph.
It is also no accident that the Passover seder reminds us: “In every generation, there are those that rise up against us to destroy us….” Wow, does the history of the last few years prove that to be true!
Jewish custom states that foods with leavening in them, including corn, cannot be consumed. So rabbis supervise the Coke production line to make sure they qualify as kosher.
I saw in a supermarket a bottle of something called Pepsi Throwback – an old-style bottle of Pepsi made with cane sugar, available “a limited time only.”
It just so happens that this is the only time of the year that one can get Coke made with cane sugar – the yellow Coke caps indicate the kosher for Passover Coke, which do not use corn syrup.
Coke aficionados have known for years that the only way to get Coke made the old-fashioned way with sugar was to buy the Passover formula Coke, and they probably buy more of them than Jews do. (Mexican Coke is apparently also made with sugar.)
Pepsi seems to have noticed this trend, and it is unwilling to concede even this limited market share to Coke. So, Pepsi introduced Throwback – this is its second year – at roughly the same time that Passover Coke is in stores.
The ironic part is that Pepsi Throwback is not kosher for Passover!