16 Ramadan 1443
Last night, I went with my brother to a Passover seder hosted by one of my childhood friends. We’ve known each other since we were 12.
Sitting at the table, I thought about all the holidays we got through, unable to celebrate with our loved ones, unable to gather. I thought about how difficult it is to remember and preserve traditions in the face of institutional erasure and without family, friends, community.
But we survived.
At the table, we read through parts of the Haggadah, sometimes in English, sometimes in Hebrew.
The stories of Moses/Moshe/Musa and Joseph/Yosef/Yusuf and Elijah/Eliyahu/Ilyas were familiar to me. The need to remember slavery, liberation, exile, erasure, and resistance were familiar to me. The songs of praise never departed from
لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له
And so, they were familiar to me.
At one point, someone noted – Wait. You can read Hebrew?
I almost forgot I could. I was surprised how much I remembered. My eyes and fingers kept landing on the right letters on the page as my ears followed the words pronounced at the table. Knowing Arabic helps.
The adults offered the kids, me, and my brother grape juice to fill our cups. The kids fidgeted in their seats, waddled around and under the table, played with squishy toys they earned.
I felt proud watching my friend remember and pass on tradition in the best way she knew.
On our way home, my brother later asked me in the car how I learned to read Hebrew. Apparently, we surprised each other.
I tried to remember what led me to two years of Hebrew in graduate school, but remembering is hard.