PurimFest 2011

This week marked Purim, the biggest balagan to ever hit the streets of Tel Aviv. This was my first experience with Israeli holidays and it was all I thought it would be and more! Here in Israel holidays don’t just last a day or two, they last for an entire week! So come Monday people were already walking the streets decked out in costume (even though Purim was the following Sunday!).

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself! Let me first describe what “Purim” is. Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the biblical story of Esther. Essentially Esther married the King of Persia after winning a beauty contest designed to find him a bride. The King did not know that Esther was Jewish and Esther’s guardian Mordecai advised her never to tell him the truth about her religion.

The villain of this story is Haman, the King’s prime minister. Haman hated the Jews and asked the King if he could plan a massacre in the city. The King gave Haman permission and a massacre was decreed for later in the week. Mordecai heard of Haman’s plans and begged Esther to plead the case of the Jews. Esther boldly told the King the truth about her identity and asked for an end of the massacre. The King listened and agreed to help Esther–he had Haman hanged, but unfortunately he could not put an end to the massacre, as it was already an official decree. He did, however, give the Jews permission to defend themselves. The Jews were victorious and the massacre did not occur as planned. We celebrate Purim in order to commemorate Esther’s bravery in saving the Jewish people!

Modern tradition has transformed Purim into a Halloween of sorts. Everyone dresses in costume and parties like it’s 1999–and trust me, if there’s one thing Israelis do well it’s take time off from work and party!

My Purim kicked off with a Wednesday party at the Shapira Community Center. This was a party for the children (including many in my class!) and it was adorable!

The creepy Purim characters were out in full form.

And what’s a Purim party without a man on stilts in an elephant costume?

It was a lot of fun!

The next day we made Hamantaschen in celebration for the holiday! Hamentaschen is a traditional Purim cookie (we have them all over the place in the US too), which is essentially a sugar cookie with jam in the center. This is then folded into a triangle meant to resemble Haman’s hat/ears (depending on who you ask!). Hamentaschen is actually a Yiddish word, so here in Israel these delicious morsels are called “Oznayhaman” aka Haman’s ears.

All 10 of us made a ton of cookies. More than should ever be made in one sitting.

This picture only accounts for about 1/3 of the cookies we made. Mind you, there are 10 of us, but that’s still quite the cookie fest.

This next picture I’m in love with because of Kelly’s face.

Sass alert!!

As a side note, we’ve started calling Kelly things like “Sassafrass,” “Sasspants,” and my personal favorite, “Sasquatch.” I’m not quite sure how this all started–she probably did something sassy one time and now she has a reputation for being the sassiest chiquita around. She totally embraces this new role by acting sassy/making threatening gestures every 6.7 seconds. This face is exhibit A. (I love you Kelly :))

We needed a night to recover from Hamantaschen overload so we decided to go out for Purim on Friday night. My friend Davida and I went as “Thing One” and “Thing Two” from Doctor Suess. We wrote “Thing One” and “Thing Two” on our shirts in Hebrew and these bad boys came out smashingly!

The best “D’var Akhad” and “D’var Schtayim” to ever grace the streets of Tel Aviv. Also probably the only “D’var Akhad” and “D’var Schtayim” to grace the streets of Tel Aviv. We’ve heard tell that Dr. Suess may only be a North American thing. Shhh..our costumes were still incredible.

We went out to Florentine, a neighborhood nearby, which was bustling with people! This wasn’t Purim’s major party night but there were still quite a few people wandering the streets. I met a few Lady Gagas, numerous cowboys, and a number of “Black Swans.” Twas quite the night!

Saturday night I was minus my “D’var Schtayim” so I decided to wear all black, don a gold cape, and call myself a generic superhero.

The lazy man’s costume.

We went out to Florentine again and this time we were greeted with literally the biggest crowd I have ever seen in my entire life. I seriously have never seen so many people. Each street in the entire neighborhood of Florentine (a solid 20 streets) was filled with people. There were DJs set up every 100ft or so and people would move from one area to the next getting their groove thing on.

I can’t even explain how many people were there though. To put it in perspective about 25,000-30,000 people attend Spring Weekend at UConn every year–Florentine was at least 3-4 times bigger than that. It was mania! I stole some pictures from my friend Leah, but these still don’t do the event justice.

Holy crazy.

It was amazing just to be in a crowd like that!

After sufficiently recovering from Purim, we returned to volunteering and life went back to normal again. That is if you consider life in Israel to be normal. I usually don’t write about serious things on the blog, but hey there’s some serious shit going on right now and I’d like to at least mention it.

Hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis have increased tenfold in the past week or two. This is probably due to the tension in the Middle East as a whole, but things hadn’t really reached Israel until now. I’m not sure if anyone has been following the media, but things have been escalating.

About a week ago a terrorist killed an Israeli family of 5 in the West Bank. Throughout the week many Palestinians were targeted by Israeli gunfire/rockets, and although the reasons are unclear, two Palestinian boys were shot coming too close to the “no-go” border in Gaza. The hostilities increased as southern Israel (Be’ersheva, Ashdod, and other areas) was bombarded this past week with over 70 missiles. Schools were closed and people were forced into bomb shelters. Israel retaliated against these attacks with much of the same, sending missiles over into Hamas territory. Everything came to a head yesterday with a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. A bomb was detonated near the central bus station wounding 30 individuals, with 3 in critical condition and one killed.

Needless to say things are getting a little bit more heated in Israel. Tensions are escalating and a lack of communication is preventing things from staying calm. Just being over here and seeing the bias that both Israelis and Palestinians have towards one another is unbelievable–you can see why things are not settled in this region.

With that being said, I feel very safe in Tel Aviv. One Israeli I met described this city as a “perfect bubble.” He served in the army back in 2008 during the war with Lebanon and told me that the Northern region of Israel was incredibly dangerous. Both sides were constantly firing at one another and everyone was on edge. However, when he journeyed back home to Tel Aviv he found that everything was the same old/same old. No one was nervous, everyone was carefree–almost as though there was no war going on at all.

Tel Aviv is very central and therefore not a whole lot happens here. Now I know the city isn’t immune from problems, but for now I feel extremely protected. The escalating events put me on edge and I’ll see where things progress, but for now I love where I live and I wouldn’t even think of leaving.

It also helps that soldiers walk around the streets 24/7 here, in times of both war and peace. Unlike the US, machine guns are a very common sight and I feel better knowing that I’m surrounded by the army at all times. It’s a bit disconcerting at first, but now it’s just a piece of everyday life.

Okay, that’s just my two cents on the matter–I knew I couldn’t ignore the subject completely!

Right now unfortunately I am sick and nursing a pepsi in my bed. I have a feeling I’m going to make good friends with the bucket next to my bed tonight. Blehhh 😦 Oh well, I guess some down time is for the best. Lyla Tov everyone!

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