Two years ago, before our very eyes, a liberation movement of great courage and hope began to unfold halfway around the world. Blood ran like water in the streets of distant capitals, and still people fought, flesh against tanks, citizens against infantry, poets against police.
A large, striped blue-and-white flag bearing the phrase, "Liberation!" greets visitors at the Museum of Tolerance exhibit, "Liberation! Revealing the Unspeakable," about the Allied soldiers and the starved, dying and dead Jews they discovered while liberating concentration camps.
In a hallway there is a row of photographs of soldiers who became the saviors of survivors. Then, down a set of stairs to the main exhibit area, one gallery wall features a 1945 poem written by an unnamed survivor upon learning of Hitler's death:
I have outlived the fiend
My lifelong wish fulfilled
What more need I achieve
My heart is full of joy
When a Marine finds himself in a ditch or an abandoned house, suddenly under fire, having to decide where to shoot and who to kill, it may not much matter if the Marine is Jewish. It was before and after the firefights in Iraq that Marine Corps Sgt. Kayitz Finley remembered and confronted his belief.
The war in Iraq cost Finley his faith for awhile. It also took away 11 buddies -- including a close friend -- men on whom he'd depended to get home in one piece. Still, for Finley, the conflict was never the wrong war, the wrong place or the wrong time. For him, the Iraq War was as advertised -- a war of liberation, a war keeping faith with the American principle of bringing freedom to those lacking it.
"Every Marine out there was for the cause," said Finley, who served two combat tours in Iraq. "I believe in the cause, and I wanted to continue what I was doing."
I was sitting at lunch with my best friend the other day discussing life. This is her tsuris at the moment: she is involved with a guy who loves her very much, accepts her unconditionally, is cute, bright, Jewish, healthy, loyal.
The last time Trudy Spira was in Auschwitz, she was 12 years old. The day of liberation "is my second birthday -- I was reborn on that day," said Spira, who came from Venezuela with her son, Ernesto, 48, to show him the place that robbed her of her childhood.
Each year, the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet forces is marked on Jan. 27, but this year, the 60th anniversary has given Poland, site of the most infamous Nazi death camps, a special opportunity for remembrance and reflection.
The anniversary ceremonies, which will be held at the memorial site in Birkenau, will draw an assortment of international dignitaries and leaders. Among those slated to attend are Israeli President Moshe Katsav, Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yuschenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
At Jewish Family Service's Freedom Seder, participants read from a haggadah that was just a little bit different. Instead of reading of the four sons, those at the Freedom Seder read about the "four community members."
"The wise community member asks, 'How can we, as individuals, and a community, address domestic violence?'"
The motive driving suicide volunteers is revenge. They have stopped fighting to liberate Palestine.
"Love and Liberation: When the Jews Tore Down the Ghetto Walls" by Ralph David Fertig (Writers Club Press, $17.95)
On Jan. 9, 1807, Prince Jerome of Prussia decreed that the fortifications of the ancient city of Breslau could be destroyed. After 540 years of isolation, the Jews of Breslau tore down the ghetto gates. Under Napoleonic law, they were now free to pursue their religion while becoming citizens of the state.
Purim, sometimes called the Feast of Esther, is one of the happiest of all Jewish holidays. It marks the liberation of the Jews from the cruel prime minister, Haman, through the heroism of the beautiful and good Queen Esther. The story states that she was a vegetarian while in the king's court in ancient Persia. Yes, before it was the fashion, Queen Esther was a connoisseur of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains, but poppy seeds were said to be her favorite. It is in her honor that on Purim, poppy seeds find their way into salads, kugels and pastries.
The world has an odd habit, alert readers have noticed, of exploding in springtime, smack in the middle of the Season of our Liberation. Sometimes these explosions disrupt those carefully laid Passover plans in the most annoying way. At other times, Passover just gains new meaning.
The Passover theme of liberation took on new meaning when more than 1,000 people rallied Sunday to demand freedom for the 13 Iranian Jews, imprisoned in Shiraz a year ago and facing trial for alleged espionage.