Purim in Israel 2016
BY MIRIAM KRESH DATE 21/03/2016
“They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat!” – A joke that goes around Jewish communities at most festivals, and never more aptly than before Purim. The ancient story of Purim bursts into vivid life every year in Israel, whose streets vibrate with fiesta sound and color.
Big parades dominate downtown’s. In neighborhoods, costumed kids skip around warbling folk songs. Adults donate money to the needy and send plates of goodies out to neighbors. Families and friends sit down to feast together – and drink wine, again according to tradition, until “you can’t tell the difference between Haman and Mordecai.”
So who were Haman and Mordecai, and what’s the story of purim?
In 357 BCE, the Persian king Ahasuerus was sitting comfortably on his throne in Babylon, ruler of all civilized countries in the world. His wife Vashti displeasing him, he casually got rid of her and sent scouts around his lands to bring him a woman worthy of replacing her. Among hundreds of beauties corralled into his harem, he took to wife Esther, niece to the sage Mordecai. Esther, under Mordecai’s order, didn’t reveal that she was Jewish.
Haman, the king’s evil prime minister, hated Mordecai and the Jews. He concocted a genocidal plan to kill all the Jews under Ahasuerus’s rule, casting lots (Pur) to determine, by divination, the best time to start his campaign, even paying the king in silver for the privilege of committing slaughter across his lands. Esther, guided by Mordecai via a messenger, finally revealed her Jewishness to the king and denounced Haman in a dramatic scene at a palace feast. Haman was duly hanged and the genocide averted.
Mordecai became benevolent prime minister to Ahasuerus instead of Haman, leading to the Jews being allowed to return to Israel and build the Holy Temple anew.
The Purim story, full of colorful twists and turns, was written down by Esther and Mordecai, commanding Jewry to retell it every year. Every congregation owns a megillah, the hand-written parchment scroll, from which the story’s read aloud once on the eve, and once more on Purim day.
Many of the Purim traditions stem from the theme of hidden things: Esther’s hidden origins, Haman’s plot hatched in secret, clandestine correspondences between Esther and Mordecai, the hidden seeds of salvation for the Jews that entered the palace when Esther became wife to Ahasuerus. As reminders, Jewish kids frolic in costumes and masks on Purim; Hamentaschen cookies hide delicious fillings in their pastry folds, and even the traditional binge is meant to celebrate the bringing to light of secrets – as it’s well known, “wine in, secrets out.”
Big Purim parades occur in every major city in Israel and are called Adeloyadah. They begin at about noon on Thursday the 24th, but it is worth double checking the timing of Adeloyadah in the town where you’ll be. Get there early to secure a good viewing, and bring plenty of water. The parades and general partying go on for hours.
There’s a Dan Hotel at most major cities that run Adeloyadah parades. Best to book your room in advance!
Caesaria: The Purim event in Caesarea is usually held in the National Park and is Free. Check for updated information online, closer to Purim.
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Haifa: The main Purim event in Haifa usually begins between 10am and 3pm along the length of Namal Street, Lower Haifa. Previous years featured activities, live entertainment and music in carnival style. There are balls and bar parties for the 20-30 crowd and for older adults.
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Hertzliyah: The 2016 parade in Hertzliyah starts at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, beginning on Sokolov Street no. 100 (Gan Beit Sefer) and continues to Ben Gurion Street. Plenty of fun and attractions for the whole family.
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Holon: Holon, south of Tel Aviv, stages Israel’s biggest, most impressive Adeloyadah. Jugglers, dancers, brass bands, acrobats and floats – you name it, they’ve got it. The Children’s Museum also opens its doors and holds costume workshops for kids.
Jerusalem: Purim occurs a day later in Jerusalem and other cities who were walled at the time of the Purim story.
The biggest public Purim party happens at the Municipality in Safra Square on March 25, 2016 from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. TV and movie stars make appearances, there’s a costume competition, performances and workshops. Jerusalem’s Purim activities are too many to list, but check out http://www.itraveljerusalem.com/events/purim-in-jerusalem to see the long list of family (and adult) oriented events.
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Tel Aviv: The Tel Aviv municipality runs a huge, free, Purim street carnival and parade that starts at the HaMedinah square and continues through Jaffa. Check online for exact updates.
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Purim Recipe: Hamentaschen
These triangular Purim pastries hide a sweet surprise inside.
1- 3/4 cup (250 grams) flour
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
50 oz. (150 grams) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 egg yolk
2-3 teaspoons milk or water
Additional egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water, for glazing
6 oz. chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten
Combine all filling ingredients except egg in a small pan. Cook over low heat until melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Beat egg in.
Mix flour, salt, sugar and vanilla extract in the food processor. Add the butter and whizz until the dough mixture resembles corn meal.
Add the egg yolk and whizz again until the dough forms a ball. Remove from the food processor immediately. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill for 1/2 hour.
Divide the dough into quarters. Roll each quarter out thinly on a floured board. Cut circles 3” diameter (7-1/2 cm.) with a cookie or biscuit cutter.
Place 1 rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Pinch three sides together to make a triangle. Place the filled cookies on a lined cookie sheet and glaze with the egg/water mixture.
Bake at 375°F (185°C) for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Cool the cookies on their tray for 10 minutes before removing them to a rack, to prevent crumbling.
Written by MIRIAM KRESH