March 25, 2016

Happy Hipster Purim

Happy Purim! Living in Israel, everyone knows about this holiday. Hamentashen  (oznei Haman) seem to appear on bakery shelves right after the Chanukah donuts (sufganiot) disappear.  Do you like white chocolate filling, strawberry jam or the traditional poppy seed variety?

The toy stores start displaying costumes in February, with princess dresses buffeting in the fresh spring breeze. 

Did you know that Elsa, the Princess from Frozen, was the number one dress up choice for Israeli girls? I heard that five girls turned up in the same blue dress at one kindergarten last Tuesday.
Snow White soldier on base. 

Every school child dresses up for school and every town in the country hosts their own huge parade, a huge, creative enterprise that takes months to organize.  

There are parties everywhere: on army bases, offices, schools, homes and on the street. 

Our expressive neighbours rented a horse and pony and paraded their kids riding them up and down the streets, reenacting a scene from the Purim story. (See video below.) They even took the horse inside MK Naftali Bennett's house!

Adloyada Purim parade.

 In my younger daughter’s high school, the girls elect a 12th grader to be their Rabbanit. She is given a crown and fancy dress and is in charge of the school for a week. All the students dance around her when they see her to her and she gives new school rules for the week such as:

-Every time the teacher says “I,” the girls have to clap
-Every married teacher brings a wedding photo and tells how she met her husband
-Every time the girls see a teacher, they have to sing a special song

The results are a hilarious upside down world where students rule.

On Wednesday night, my older daughter and her friends dressed up and went out to some local pubs to dance. They were swarmed by a parade of costumes. Everyone turned out in costume, religious and non religious, and they all danced together.

And on Thursday night, the young crowd headed to Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem where there is an all-night party in the market. DJs blast music and costumed revelers dance outside the market stalls, filling every alley with fun.

My daughter wandered from the market to Nachlaot last night and said Jerusalem was one massive street party.  Na Na Nachman guys were twirling in the streets, dancing along non-religious kids. People young and old were dancing on rooftops and balconies and everyone was invited to join in the parties. People roamed the streets all night, wishing each other “Chag Sameach.”

Nachlaot, two years ago (Nati Shohat/Flash 90).

And this is not even the religious side of the holiday, which, in itself actually commands parties, fun and drinking. The fact is that Purim is a natural part of life here in Israel, while outside Israel, it not exactly mainstream Judaism. 

I did not fully realize this until I read an interesting article on how Purim should be a hipster holiday, a time to bring secular Jews outside of Israel closer to their Jewish identity, especially millennials.

In Israel, one proudly wears their Jewish identity on the outside, where outside Israel, Jews, now more than ever, are keeping their identity low key. 

The police asked the Jewish community in Brussels to cancel their Purim celebrations because, in the wake of the horrific terror attacks, they could not assure the safety of the Jews.  As a result, large concerts were held in private homes and megilah readings were done in small huddles.

This is a mirror of the Purim story, where the main characters who live in Persia must keep their Jewish identities undercover. They are soon threatened with genocide and, ironically, when they proudly come out as Jews, the story reverses and their lives are saved. Perhaps strength and confidence in who we are empowers us and can weaken our enemies.

Just look at those fearless revellers in Jerusalem last night, partying in the same city that witnesses attacks daily. They won't give into fear but continue to experience a vibrant life lived just as hipster, millennial Jews do, right here in Israel. 

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