Last week, as many of you no doubt are aware, was Purim. While Purim is a one day holiday, here in Israel (and especially in the environs of Jerusalem where the holiday is celebrated the day after Purim) this one day turns into a week of more of festivities. Sunday, was the official day of dressing-up at school. The entire country shows up at school dressed as soldiers, Superman, indians, Peter Pan, princesses (many, many, many princesses of all shapes, sizes and colors) and pretty much anything else you could imagine. Our boys dressed up differently each day of Purim. On Sunday they went as a dentist and a policeman, on Monday night (for the first reading of the Megillah, the story of Purim) they dressed as Power Rangers (and Amichai was Tigger) and on Tuesday the entire Sussman family dressed as members of the Israeli National Soccer team. We had an amazing Purim filled with activities, fun and friends.
We were talking to friends here in Neve Daniel about the differences between holidays in American and here in Israel. We realized that, at least for us, all of the holidays are special and feel more ‘natural’ when celebrated here in Israel, but the Purim really stands out. Unlike many other holidays where work is forbidden and there are special meals and tefillot (prayers), Purim does not have the prohibitions of avoiding work (like Shabbat and other holidays). This makes for an interesting dichotomy with the holiday’s observance here and abroad. Here everyone is home from work (as it is essentially a national holiday) and the whole country, both religious and secular celebrates the holiday. In America the holiday often felt rushed as we would rush home from work to get the kids dressed before Megillah reading at night, get up early in the morning to deliver Mishloach Manot (one of the mitvot, commandments, of the holiday is to give small gifts to others called Mishloach Manot) to friends and to catch the second Megillah reading all before going to work so that you can rush back home to partake in the festive meal (seudah) that is also one of the mitzvot of the holiday. While all this is fun, there is a certain rushed quality to the holiday. In comparison, we were able to enjoy the entire holiday (all three days) at a nice relaxed pace. The yishuv sponsored a parade around the neighborhood with kids riding in the backs of pick-up trucks and trailers in the Purim finery, music blaring, candies being thrown from the roof of a truck (that was partly my job) and we had a great meal with friends (40 of us including kids all together) with good food, singing and a general festive atmoshpere.
It was our best Purim ever…an experience that we hope that our friends from abroad have the opportunity to share with us in the future.