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Ray Hanania


A taste of this combination of Passover and Easter at the Hanania household.

By Ray Hanania, posted March 30, 2011

[Editor's note: This was written just after Passover and Easter last year.It seems very timely today]

What another terribly marred Passover and Easter week. Now I know why so many Israelis and some Palestinians turn their eyes away from the constant tragedy and pretend it isn’t there.

My Facebook page is raging with anger between Palestinians and Israelis. “Friends” insist on posting notes about how the “other side” is responsible for everything.

“Terrorists.” “Racist Zionists.” Hateful blather. Yes, I know that people are killing each other and frankly I blame both sides. Of course, depending on whose side you are on determines who is to blame for the latest skirmish in the Gaza Strip.

The IDF entered Gaza and Hamas responded. So many were killed. And then the hate speech ramps up from both sides.

In peace, incidents like this won’t happen. In peace, IDF soldiers will cross into the Gaza Strip with permission from the Palestinians and, instead of firing on them, Palestinians might ask what they are doing.

SO MY wife (who is Jewish) and I are here in the United States planning for our annual “Passter” dinner, watching helplessly as the situation in Israel and Palestine deteriorates further.

Oh, sorry, “Passter” is a term you all in Israel and Palestine might not be too familiar with in these days of continued conflict, name-calling and blame. It’s something that can only come from peace. A combination of Passover and Easter.

My wife and I argue about the typical things Israelis and Palestinians seem preoccupied with these days, like the continued bloodshed, violence, fight over land ownership, targeted killings, terrorist attacks and the growing political division between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama.

But we don’t yell and scream. We don’t call each other names or spend our time planning revenge. No, we look at the people in Israel and the Palestinian territories and we shake our heads. A bunch of unruly kids. Okay. With weapons. They should all be sent to their rooms. Disarmed.

We have other important things to think about. Sunday was Palm Sunday, a very important holiday for me as a Christian. Monday night was Passover, a very important holiday for my wife and son as Jews.

We celebrate our religious holidays together. On Palm Sunday, we decorate eggs and then have a big dinner. Palestinians like to use one color – purple – to reflect the “Passion of Christ.” Americans like to decorate eggs with  different colors reflecting the excessive commercialization of a holiday. (Ah those Americans. It’s all about money!)

Relatives drop off palm fronds symbolizing... well, I don’t need to explain it again, do I?

On Passover, we celebrate with a Seder. I like the way Arabs and Jews focus on food at holidays, as well as religious prayers and custom, of course.

IN MY comedy routine, I like to riff on the fact that Jews really don’t have much in the way of a food menu. That’s why the Israelis “stole” our land. To get the food. Humous. Falafel. Stuffed grape leaves.

They do have a dish called cholent, I’ll give them that. You know, it’s something Jews start cooking the night before and eat the next day. Arabs have a similar dish. It’s called “leftovers.” Of course, the Passover meal has many more sacred food items than my Arab menu; matza, wrapped in a napkin; maror (bitter herbs), which is usually horseradish that opens my sinuses; haroset (apples, nuts and cinnamon. We Arabs and Jews have a lot of nuts among us); the boiled egg (is it cheating to use an Easter egg?); and the one thing we all enjoy as Arabs and Jews – roasted lamb.

We bring the two holidays together because they often overlap and they are really so very close. Just look at the Arabic, Hebrew and English words. They may have the same origins, but surely sound similar. Passover. Pessah. Passion. Purple.

We call it “Passter.”

The mixing of Israeli and Palestinian words is a tradition in my Jewish-Palestinian home. It was started by my son, Aaron (that’s what my wife calls him. I call him Abdullah, of course). He was trying to learn the words “Shalom” and “Salam,” more example of similar-sounding Arab and Jewish words and he came up with “Shalam.”

Why not? It’s better than some of the words I have been reading on my Facebook page.

We do have that one moment at the Hanania “Passter” dinner table when Passover and Easter collide in a mini Arab-Israeli skirmish.

That’s when my wife always looks at me and tells my son, “Aaron, ask daddy to pass the Israeli salad.”

And I always respond with, “Abdullah, please tell mommy that we don’t have Israeli salad. We only serve Arab east Jerusalem salad.”

Can you blame the kid for scratching his yarmulke? And then grabbing the bowl of tabbouleh and dividing it equally, 78 percent for my wife and 22 percent for me?

Well, Happy Easter, Hag sameah, and a happy “Passter” from the Hanania household; what the future of Palestinian-Israeli relations might someday look like not just in our home but in Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Insha-Allah (God willing). And yes, yehi ratzon (same in Hebrew). I like to cover both bases.

Named Best Ethnic Columnist in America by New America Media, the writer is a Palestinian-American columnist and peace activist. He can be reached at

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