Yes, it’s our very own mixture of Carnival and Halloween (to judge by the costumes). This is the time when we remember how Haman, the Grand Vizier of Persia, plotted to exterminate the Jewish nation (not unlike another Persian leader who shall be nameless) but got his comeuppance when a feisty Jewish girl named Esther turned the tables on him. In commemoration, we celebrate the festival of Purim.
Apart from the eating of triangular cakes filled with poppy-seed, dates or nuts, known as Hamantaschen, Oznei Haman or “Haman’s Ears” (as I’ve pointed out in the past, almost every Jewish festival has its traditional food), the most obvious outward sign of the holiday celebration is Fancy Dress. What I particularly love is the way you can see people (children and adults) walking around town dressed up as pirates, princesses, super-heroes or movie characters, going about their daily business, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world for the coffee-shop waitress to be wearing a funny hat, for a secretary to turn up to work in a funny mask or for Spiderman to visit the Western Wall.
Haman was said to be descended from the Amalekites, a tribe whom God ordered to King Saul to destroy, because when the Children of Israel were wandering in the Wilderness, after the Exodus from Egypt, the Amalekites constantly harried and attacked them, making a speciality of attacking the weakest, the sick and the children. But Saul disobeyed God and spared the King of the Amalekites. Had he not done so, Haman would never have been born.
Haman and his ten sons were hanged on the same gallows he had prepared for Mordechai the Jew. But who knows how many more descendants of the Amalekite king, whose life Saul spared, were free to persecute Jews because of Saul’s disobedience? Hitler was one, no doubt. Possibly the Iranian president, Ahmedinajad, is another. But whenever I see crowds of children in fancy dress, laughing and playing in the streets of Jerusalem, celebrating Purim, I see our victory over our enemies.
I too dressed up for Purim, at my choir’s Purim party. I wonder how many people would have recognised me as as I recreated my character of the Hungarian diva, Princess Maria Esterhazy (get it?) and regaled the audience with my rendering of the Vilja-Lied from Lehar’s “The Merry Widow”, to thunderous applause.
I will leave you with a Purim video from the Maccabeats. which makes me shed tears of pure joy every time I see it.