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Purim: The Goofier Jewish Halloween-Style Holiday

Icon March 12, 2023
Icon By Shai Navon
Icon 0 comments

The most popular Jewish Holiday in Israel might be one you’ve never heard of – Purim. And Purim is a unique time to see and experience Israel in a way that no other time can – for a few days, the Holy Land becomes goofy and jovial.

Its popularity isn’t that surprising, considering it’s the most festive and joyous holiday in the Jewish calendar. Purim invites both secular and religious Israelis to celebrate with a clear decree: be happy. And if happy we must be – happy we shall be! And if you travel to Israel around that time, odds are that happy you shall be as well!

It’s a religious tradition that all can agree on. So what are the roots of this unique jolly Jewish holiday?

The Roots of Purim

As Jews well know, even the happiest Jewish holiday must have some disaster attached to it. Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in Persia from an evil plan plotted against the Jews by the king’s advisor, as described in the Book of Esther.

A plot to kill them all. Thankfully by the grace of God, a woman named Esther and her uncle Mordechai foiled this evil plot by convincing the king to get rid of the evildoers instead. The victory celebrations that ensued have traditionally involved feasting, drinking, gift-giving, and, naturally, the reading of the Book of Esther.

Purim Costumes vs. Halloween Costumes

Purim can be best described as the Jewish version of Halloween, with the horror aspects of the American holiday swapped with jolly aspects.

People put on costumes, from the perfunctory to the highly elaborate, and walk around in the streets and even office buildings looking anywhere from cool to the intentionally ridiculous. Purim has slowly and surely become a tourist favorite because seeing people of all ages let loose dressed in creative costumes is genuinely the best type of people-watching you would ever find.

The reason behind the wearing of funny costumes on Purim lies with the aforementioned grace of God, which turned the tables on the evil plotters, who found themselves victims of their own murderous plot. That reversal (ונהפוכו) means that for one day, Jews are encouraged to reverse the way they dress and be someone else for one day. Tradition also encourages them to drink a lot of wine until they won’t be able to tell the hero Mordechai from the chief evil plotter, Haman.

 If that sounds like a lot of fun to you, then you would understand why Israel stretches out this holiday from its official 24 hours to a whole week. This means that for a whole week, you will see Israelis from all walks of life, walking around the streets dressed in hilarious customers.

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So, if you happened to be in Israel during the Purim week, here are a couple of activities you won’t want to miss:

Dress up and go to a party

Everywhere in Israel, and most notably Tel Aviv, every day in the vicinity of Purim is reason enough to go out and party. Tel Aviv indeed likes to party, but there’s no party like a Purim party. You don’t necessarily have to go to a club to be part of the fun, there are plenty of street parties you can attend, for free!

Go to the Adloyada

The official street parties, the Adloyada parades, take place in many cities on the second day of Purim. It’s a humorous procession that is a newer tradition, which started in Tel Aviv back in 1912.

Attend a Bible Reading in a Synagogue

A key tradition during Purim is to listen to the Megillah, which is the Scroll of Esther. The story of Purim is read aloud in synagogues all over the country, with the attendees dressed up in costumes, making for a fun juxtaposition.

We’re giving you advance notice here: whenever the story of Purim gets to the evil plotter Haman, the entire synagogue erupts in noise through a toy called “Raashan”, specifically dedicated to booing the evil Haman and erasing his name by drowning it out with noise. So don’t be alarmed when that happens. Chag Sameach!


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