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Israelis prepare to celebrate Passover, a holiday of freedom, but hostages remain in Gaza

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Many Israelis were somber on Monday as they prepared for Passover, the Jewish freedom holiday with 130 hostages still in Gaza, saying they would commemorate the holiday rather than celebrate it.

The number of hostages believed to be alive is unclear and there is little chance they will be released soon as negotiations with their Hamas kidnappers have stalled.

The holiday begins after sunset on Monday with the traditional Passover meal. Traditionally, it is a joyful gathering of family and friends who follow rituals of blessing symbolic foods that retell the biblical story of the ancient Israelites’ enslavement and suffering in Egypt and their exodus and liberation.

Israelis remain on edge after a war with Iran this month, the first time Tehran has directly attacked Israel from Iranian soil. Israeli authorities say the country is still mourning an Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people, leading to six months of deadly fighting in the Gaza Strip. The military says more than 250 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its ground invasion in late October. According to Gaza health officials, more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war.

Daily tit-for-tat attacks along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon have turned part of Israel into the Islamic State. restricted area. Tens of thousands of residents in northern and southern Israel remain in temporary shelters after being evacuated from their homes.

“We will celebrate Passover night for the children,” said Irit Feingold, 35, a preschool teacher who attended a rally for the hostages in Jerusalem on Saturday night and Plans were made to spend Monday night with about 25 of her fellow members. extended family.

“We will talk about leadership, freedom and staying free, and everyone can share how they feel,” she said.

Many families like Ms. Feingold’s have been excitedly discussing how to commemorate the holiday, with some saying they don’t want to host a seder at all.

“Every holiday is another milestone that shows we are not whole,” Ms Feingold said, adding that a return to normality and routine must be resisted. Her husband is a reservist and will return to Gaza after his vacation.

Organizations representing most of the hostage families urged families to place an empty chair at their table with a portrait of the hostage or a yellow ribbon hanging above it. Traditionally, Jews would leave an empty chair at the Passover Seder for Elijah, a biblical prophet revered as a harbinger of hope and redemption.

“All the symbolic things we do at the Passover Seder this year are going to have even more profound meaning,” said Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose son Hersh ·Hersh Goldberg-Polin is 23 years old and holds dual citizenship of Israel and the United States. , was taken prisoner to Gaza after his arm was blown off Attack on roadside bomb shelter. He took refuge there after escaping from the Nova Tribe Music Festival.

Ms. Goldberg-Polin, who mentioned that the salt water in the Passover Seder ceremony represents the tears of the Israelites during their slavery in Egypt, told reporters she would be attending the Seder with close friends and family, “who have We know very well that if after 15 minutes we can’t do it and we need to cry, then we will cry.”

Kibbutz Be’eri is one of the border villages where hundreds of survivors being attacked On October 7, we plan to host a public seder in a Tel Aviv square that has become the focus Movement for the release of the hostages.

A quarter of the residents of Nir Oz, another border village, were killed or kidnapped. Avner Goren, the son of the founder of Communal Village, wrote a poem comparing the people of Israel to fruit salad (some sour, some sweet) to celebrate the country’s multicultural mix and made A version of the Haggadah produced by Nir Oz in the late 1990s. .

Mr. Goren was killed on 7 October. His wife, Maya Goren, was kidnapped and taken to Gaza, where she was pronounced dead. At a rally in Jerusalem on Saturday night, Rabbi Binyamin Lau said he planned to sit at the seder table with his family, and an empty chair held his friend Alex Dan Photo of Alex Dancyg, a Holocaust expert from Neil Oz who is still being held hostage, along with Fruit Salad.

Rabbi Lau, himself the son of a Holocaust survivor, said: “We are a people who tell stories at all times and under all conditions.”

Myra Novick contributed reporting from Jerusalem, and Gabby Sobelman From Rehovot, Israel.

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