The festival of Purim will be celebrated all over Israel on 9-11 March.

Purim in Israel

Purim is Israel’s answer to Mardi Gras. Children, young people and adults all are swept up into the party atmosphere. Streets are filled with people wearing fancy dress, people play tricks and jokes on one another, and many ordinary aspects of life are turned ‘inside out.’ The origins of this carnival tradition are in the Book of Esther, in which mistaken identity and foiled expectations are pivotal themes.

Costumes, masks, and masquerading have come to play a central role in celebrating Purim in Israel. Children in particular enjoy dressing up as the protagonists in the Book of Esther, fairy tale characters such as Peter Pan and Snow White, and in modern-day costumes from ballerinas to animals to pilots. Adults are allowed and even encouraged to drink so much at the synagogue celebration that they cannot distinguish between the hero and the scoundrel of the Book of Esther.

Purim Traditions

The Book of Esther describes how the Jewish exiles rejoiced by “sending portions one man to another, and gifts to the poor.” Over time, this tradition, known as Mishloach Manot (the sending of portions), has become one of the most prominent features of the holiday. According to tradition, each person must send two different, ready-to-eat foods to one friend, and two charitable donations to two poor people.

Triangular pastries, filled with jam, fruit or poppy seed honey are often included in Mishloach Manot, representing the triangular hat worn by Haman, the villain of the Purim story.

The Purim Story

Jewish exiles from the Kingdom of Judah, who had been living in Babylonian captivity in the 6th Century BCE, found themselves under Persian rule after Babylonia was conquered by the Persian Empire. According to the Book of Esther, Haman, the royal advisor to King Ahasuerus, plotted to destroy the Jews. His plans were foiled by Esther, who was made queen after a beauty contest to choose the successor to the king’s first wife.
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