One of the traditions, at Purim, is to masquerade in fancy dress. If one were to do this at any time other than Halloween (in North America) or Carnival/Mardi Gras (in Europe/South America), one would be looked at as if one was somehow rather peculiar. But in Israel, at Purim, there’s nothing unusual in seeing a shopkeeper, or a bus driver, or a receptionist in a government office, turning up to work, if not in full fancy dress, at least sporting some element of disguise, such as a brightly-coloured wig, a party hat, a fake moustache, or rabbit ears.
In the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall last week, Jerusalemites were already in festival mood, though the holiday is actually tomorrow (for Jerusalem) or today (for the rest of the country). Groups of young (and not so young) people were strolling around in costume. Here and there, one might espy a pirate, a gypsy fortune-teller, Little Red Riding Hood, a vampire or a Grecian goddess. Giggling teenage girls were happy to pose for photographs.
From the lower end of Ben Yehuda, music poured forth from loudspeakers set up by a group of Bnei Akiva boys who began dancing. Within minutes, a flash mob had developed, as more and more passers-by stopped to take photos and eventually joined in the dancing themselves.
This is what I love about Israel – the freedom to be Jews, not only without fear of persecution but also without fear of embarrassment. The freedom to drop everything and start dancing in the street, without passersby looking at us and thinking – “Duh? WTF? Are they nuts or something?”
And on the same note – I love getting on a bus, as I did this morning, and seeing the scrolling indicator board, which informs the passengers what is the next stop, proclaim:”Happy Purim from Egged“.
And that is what I wish you all, Gentle Readers.