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    The unique Exodus

    The Israelites leaving Egypt, from the Golden Haggadah,Catalonia, c.1300

    The Exodus story has repeated itself time and time again.

    Some Exoduses are voluntary: people moving to another place to find a better life. Others are involuntary: people escaping or being forced out and seeking a haven.

    The Biblical Exodus was different again: a persecuted people struggling for liberation and finally seeing their yearning realised.

    The subject was analysed at a national Bible convention in Israel in 1963 in the days of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. Ben Gurion not only attended but gave a lecture, as did at least one other member of his Cabinet.

    Well may we envy the days when heads of government were capable of more than mere political machination!

    The speakers compared the Exodus from Egypt with the return to Zion from the Babylonian exile. It was pointed out that the Exodus was an escape from oppression whilst the return from Babylon was a free-will aliyah.

    The Israelites who left Egypt found none of their own group in Canaan whilst those who came from Babylon rejoined a Jewish community that had remained in the Land.

    These and other aspects are relevant to every experience of movement and migration.

    Do people move because they want to or because they have to? Is their integration different if they find some of their own people already present in their new home? To what extent do beliefs and ideals provide an impetus for migration or is the motivation more pragmatic? Is every Exodus unique?

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