year so I'll try not to repeat too much of last year's blog. But Purim really seems to be an "expanding" holiday in Israel. Although it is really a one day holiday - and one of the "minor" holidays on the Jewish calendar, it seems to have every increasing stature in Israel. Perhaps that is because it is such a fun holiday.
Kids are off school for two days (the actual day of Purim - which is today) and tomorrow as well. But the festivities began even before that. On Friday, students across Israel went to school dressed up in various costumes. Many cities had their annual Purim parades that day.
In Ra'anana, the "Adloyadah" parade consists of all of the schools across Ra'anana, including elementary, middle schools and high schools, religious, secular and other building floats and marching through the main city street (Ahuza Street) led by the Mayor. The float on the left is part of the Hasharon middle school effort.
Purim officially began on Saturday night with readings of the Megillah (the book of Esther) in synagogues and other places across the country. We enjoyed a fully egalitarian, lay-led Conservative service and Megillah reading at Hod VeHadar in K'far Sabah. Many of not most of the congregants came in costumes, including almost all of the children and most of the adults. Our family accounted for two of the ten chapters, which is quite fun. Reading the Megillah at Purim is challenging since the text is read from a scroll with no vowels, punctuation or musical notes - just like reading from the Torah. It also seems to me that there are fewer and fewer young people who know how to chant it properly and that is quite concerning. So we have made sure to try to do our part by teaching our kids...two of the three so far. Fortunately, for people who are interested in learning, there are some great resources now available. For example, the Virtual Cantor site has all of the readings available. There are many other sites as well.
Purim continued today until sundown (other than in Jerusalem, where there is a bonus day tomorrow). Many people delivered "Mishloach Manot" packages to friends and relatives - packages of food items, usually. We received some really great themed Mishloach Manot this year including an all black and white themed package - and a Mexican themed package that included salsa and an avacado...
Another important part of Purim celebrations is making efforts to help the less fortunate by contributing money and food for the needy. There were visible activities in this regard throughout Ra'anana - and all over Israel.
All of these customs are rooted in Jewish religious tradition. But in present day Israel, Purim is more than a religious festival. It is a holiday of parties all over the country, people wearing costumes in the streets, gift giving and general merriment. Walking along Ahuza Street, I saw people of all ages wandering about in various costumers. Many teenagers dressed in very "minimalist" outfits. For some reason, it seemed to be very popular for teenage boys to be wearing baby outfits - simply an adult diaper - and nothing else. Some of them also carried a rattle...
Many teenage girls were wearing equally scanty outfits. For example, we walked by a whole group of female "police officers," all wearing extremely short mini-skirts, hardly the current uniform of the Israeli police.
The grade 12 high school class at Ostrovsky High School all wore the same outfit. The students chipped in some money and bought a set of matching white painters overalls for everyone in the class. At 7:30 a.m., the met at a nearby park and had a "paint war" dumping paints of all different colours all over each other. Then they all went to school dressed up as painters. It was quite a sight to see the Ostrovsky students wandering around Ra'anana in their costumes. Some of the students, mainly the boys as far as I could tell, wore nothing other than the overalls...
Fortunately Israel enjoyed some really nice weather. If the weather had been cooler, many people would have been quite chilly if they had worn the same "costumes."
Overall, Purim is one of those holidays that is particularly exciting in Israel. There is a celebratory atmosphere throughout the country and that makes Purim very festive.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
As the news is filled with reports of potential hostilities between Israel and Iran, we are celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim. Purim is a holiday marking the victory by the Jewish community of Persia - which, though the bravery of the story's heroes, Mordechai and Esther, was saved from a plot by the evil villain, Haman, to destroy the country's Jewish community. Sounds familiar? Well, we'll leave the discussion of modern day Iran (ancient Persia) for another day...
Purim is one of the happiest holidays on the Jewish calendar. Throughout Israel, cities celebrate "Adloyadah festivals." "Adloyada" (literally - "until you don't know") comes from the tradition of having a bit too much to drink on Purim and celebrating wildly. But these are not drunken festivals. (Unlike the parties that many people are attending tonight and tomorrow...) Far from it. These are family oriented street parades, held in the centre of many of Israel's cities.
Ra'anana held its festival yesterday, the day before Purim began. The parade began at 4 p.m. All of the city's schools were represented with themed floats and a group of selected students marching along. Ra'anana, like most other Israeli cities, has a variety of school types - religious, secular, pluralistic, and special schools for art, music and sports programs. All of these different schools were represented. Thousands of people lined the main street, Ahuza Street, which was closed off to all traffic from about 3:30 p.m. The parade marched along Ahuza for about an hour and a half.
Meanwhile, the Ra'anana City centre ("Yad L'Banim") was turned into a giant dance club from the early afternoon. Students, who came to school in a wide range of costumes, were let out of school at noon. Thousands of kids made their way to Yad L'Banim, which was set up with a DJ, lots of security and a party atmosphere. The weather cooperated - it was a sunny 20C.
The holiday of Purim officially began at sundown this evening. Across Israel(and throughout the world), Jewish people went to Synagogue, community centres or other locations to hear a public reading of the "Megillah" - the Book of Esther - which is read from a parchment scroll. Israelis were also frantically preparing baskets of food and sweets to give out to neighbours and friends tomorrow - as is customary on Purim. Many Israelis are also participating in the Mitzvah of charitable gifts to the needy, another Purim custom.
Kids are off school for three days - Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - to celebrate this relatively "minor" holiday. But for many kids, the holiday is a favourite. Unlike a "chag" - a "holy day" - buses are running, stores and restaurants are open and there are no extensive restrictions on activities. Most people are working, at least a half day. People everywhere dress up in all kinds of costumes and there is a general carnival atmosphere. And to top it off - the temperature is predicted to hit the high 20s C by the weekend, marking a real change from the much needed rainy season that has soaked Israel over the past few months.
The festivities will be continuing all over the country for the rest of the week. There are Adloyadah festivals in many other cities on Purim and the day after. Purim officially begins with Megillah readings in the City of Jerusalem one day later than the rest of the world (and the rest of Israel) - tomorrow night. And Israelis will be celebrating with festive meals across the country in the afternoon on Purim day.
Because of the timing of Shabbat this year - kids will wind up having had a break from school from Tuesday at noon - until Sunday morning. For many kids, this is definitely the best part of celebrating Purim.
Chag Sameach! (Happy Holiday!)