Purim in Israel is like Comic-Con in San Diego. Grown ups everywhere are wearing awesome costumes. Purim is not a big deal in the states, but it's a pretty important holiday to the Jewish people.
A long long time ago the Jewish people were threatened. A bad guy, by the name of Haman, urged the King of an ancient Persian empire (presumed to be Xerxes I of Persia) to sign a proclamation allowing all the Jews of the land to be slaughtered. Unbeknownst to him, his wife, Queen Esther, was a member of the tribe. She invites him and Haman to two banquets. At the second banquet she reveals her Jewish identity and asks him to save her people. The King has Haman hanged. The proclamation cannot be reversed but the King allows Esther and her uncle Mordechai to write a decree permitting the Jewish people to kill anyone who is a threat to them. The Jews kill a bunch of enemies and are saved!
Now we celebrate Purim by reading the story of Purim once in the evening and once in the morning. We also dress up, give each other gift baskets known as mishloach manot, give charity, drink a lot of alcohol and eat a big celebratory meal.
Purim is typically celebrated on the 14th of Adar because that is when the Jewish people defeated their enemies. However, in the walled cities of Jerusalem Purim is celebrated on the 15th because the Jews in the capital city of the Persian Empire fought for two days and rested on the 15th.
We are currently living in the walled city of Jerusalem. However, as Americans, we typically celebrate Purim on the 14th. Luckily Logan has cousins in Israel who live outside of the walled city. We went to celebrate Purim with them, took the bus home and celebrated Purim again in Jerusalem!
On the first night of Purim outside of the walled city we took a bus into Kiryat Sefer. It's a very religious neighborhood. We got out of the bus and were impressed with the number of people out on the street. We were accosted by a young red head barely standing on his own two feet while greedily sucking on a cigarette. We were slightly turned around and trying to find our destination. He spoke to us in Hebrew and we spoke to him in English and finally he mentioned the correct last name and we were at the right building. We knocked on the door. Logan's cousin's wife opened the door, a large smile setting her face aglow. The room was filled with children of all ages. There were three couples and 16 children. The evening was filled with drinking and eating. I spent part of the evening discussing my disappointment in God and my difficulty in finding peace when God allowed the Holocaust to happen. Logan's cousin and his friend and I debated God's plans versus our minute understanding of the world.
In between the drinking Logan's cousin's friend shared a very interested story from his own life regarding the Holocaust. As he shared his story his voice cracked and tears pooled in his eyes. He shared how his grandmother survived the Holocaust. She saw six of her siblings murdered, she lost everyone in her family. She ran away and became a secular Jew in America. She had two husbands and several children. When her only surviving child was 57 he died. By this time his grandmother had no one left. Her husbands were dead and she had no more surviving children. She sat shiva for her only son with her grandson (the man telling the story) at her side. He said his grandmother, who had no Jewish background or education repeatedly said the same two things in Yiddush:
1. I am alone, I have no one left.
2. If you have to ask, then it's not kosher.
He explained the second statement was a saying said in her hometown. In those days people raised and slaughtered their own chickens. They would then bring the chicken to the Rabbi to have him inspect and tell them whether it was kosher to eat or not. The Rabbi would do everything in his power to say the chicken was kosher because sometimes that was all they had to eat. Sometimes, the people would say: if you have to ask, then it's not kosher. His non-religious grandmother meant that despite experiencing so much misery in her life she had no right to ask God his intentions.
The bus ride home was quite the experience. It was filled with drunk men swaying back and forth singing Jewish songs in Hebrew. After a rocky start they permeated the bus with beautiful music. When we arrived in Jerusalem the difference in Purim celebration was shocking. Jerusalem was packed with teenagers and young adults dressed up in all kinds of outfits hanging out and celebrating Purim. There was less focus on discussing Jewish philosophy and more focus on having a sexy time. We didn't see a lot of drinking but I have to guess they were all already drunk. We decided to take the light rail down to Jaffa and check out the scene. We stayed briefly since it was midnight and we had two kids sleeping in the stroller.
The next day we spent the morning fighting with Sadie in between friends dropping off mishloach manot. They are baskets filled with candy/fruit/chips/soda that you give to your neighbors, friends, teachers, etc. Typically you need to give two different items so two different blessings on food can be said. People give them out to ensure everyone has food to eat during the Purim feast.
We also enjoyed very loud Jewish music that was blasting throughout the neighborhood. One of our neighbors was really setting the scene for their kids! In the early afternoon we brought mishloach manot to our new friends. In the late afternoon we joined a family for their Purim meal. A very nice family from Sadie's school invited us. We had a lovely time.
Here are some photos of Jaffa around midnight.
Chabad was hosting megillah (the story of Esther) readings all over Rechavia. On every hour for the entire day you could find another megillah reading to attend. Typically megillah readings are anywhere under an hour of time. The rabbi reads the entire megillah outloud for everyone to hear the story of Purim.
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I'm a mom. A writer. A lover of good fantasy. A proponent of nursing when possible. A birth advocate. I am absolutely horrible at keeping my house clean or the dishes washed or the laundry done. I strongly believe in women having a positive birth. When we start to respect women's rights to birth the way they want, we can start to treat women as equal people in this world.
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