The President called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu today to convey his best wishes before the start of Passover. Noting that he would host a seder at the White House, the President recalled that the story of Passover is one of liberation and freedom, and expressed his hope that the Israeli people would be able to celebrate in peace. The two leaders also discussed U.S.-Israeli cooperation on counter-terrorism, how best to move forward in efforts to advance Middle East peace, and the recent violence near the Gaza strip.
Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his deep appreciation for U.S. funding for the Iron Dome rocket and mortar defense system, which he noted has successfully intercepted several rockets aimed at Israeli communities. The President congratulated the Prime Minister on this impressive Israeli technological achievement and expressed his pride that Israeli-American cooperation made it possible. With the signing of the fiscal year 2011 budget appropriation, the President approved $205 million in U.S. funding for Iron Dome, which is above the annual package of Foreign Military Financing for Israel.
The President and the Prime Minister agreed to stay in close touch on the range of issues facing the United States and Israel.
Passover Greetings from the President to the Jewish Community and Comments from David Harris follow the jump.
President Barach Obama
My family and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating the sacred festival of Passover.
On Monday evening, Jewish families and their friends in America, Israel, and around the world will gather around the Seder table and retell the story of the Exodus, one of the most powerful stories of suffering and redemption in history. The story of Passover – which recalls the passage of the children of Israel from bondage and repression to freedom and liberty – inspires hope that those oppressed and enslaved can become free. The Seder, with its rich traditions and rituals, instructs each generation to remember its past, while appreciating the beauty of freedom and the responsibility it entails.
This year, that ancient instruction is reflected in the daily headlines as we see modern stories of social transformation and liberation unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa. Against the backdrop of change, we continue to pray for peace between Israel and her neighbors, while reaffirming our enduring commitment to Israel’s security.
As Jewish families gather for this joyous celebration of freedom, let us all be thankful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon us, and let us work to alleviate the suffering, poverty, injustice, and hunger of those who are not yet free. Chag Sameach.
David Harris (NJDC):
Tonight, as we gather at Passover seders throughout the world and remember our exodus from Egypt, recite the four questions and nosh on Passover delicacies, the First Family will be doing the same.
The Obama family will gather with some of their closest Jewish friends and several of the President’s most trusted Jewish advisors to celebrate the third annual White House Passover seder, which will be led by none other than President Barack Obama himself. Obama’s seders have garnered a reputation for following the traditions in the Haggadah, with every ritual of the seder being carried out (Sasha and Malia typically recite the four questions). Obama and the White House kitchen staff also make sure that the food served on the table would live up to your grandmother’s standards — even the gefilte fish. Above is a photo from last year’s seder.
Obama has been hosting Passover seders since his Presidential campaign and has made a point to keep the tradition going as President. All American Jews should take pride in knowing that our President deeply respects Jewish tradition — so much so that he and First Lady Michele Obama enthusiastically celebrate with us multiple times during the year, including during May — which has been designated as Jewish Heritage Month. And all of this is in addition to the intimate meetings that regularly occur between Obama and Jewish communal leaders — including leadership from an array of American Jewish organizations, including NJDC.