March 22, 2016

The holiday of Purim is traditionally a one-day affair. But as it’s always a good time to party and with spring in the air, it has become customary to celebrate all week long.

Purim celebrates the events described in the biblical book of Esther, in which Mordechai the Jew helps the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire triumph over the evil court official Haman and his plot to kill them.

The festival is one of the most fun ones on the Jewish calendar thanks to a Talmudic passage that declares, “A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai.'”

As such, a festive buzz reigns over Israel for nearly a week with school events, alcohol-infused parties for adults, outdoor happenings, charity events, food drives and traditional Purim parades.

In the days surrounding Purim, you can find waiters and bank tellers, bus drivers and doctors going about their usual tasks while dressed up in costume. There is also a heightened awareness of doing good deeds.

Israelis dressed up in costumes for the jewish holiday of Purim seen in central Jerusalem on March 5, 2015. Photo by Mendy Hechtman/Flash90
Israelis dressed up for Purim in Jerusalem last year. Photo by Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90

All good holidays also come with special foods. Purim has hamantaschen (oznei haman), a triangular cookie filled with chocolate, jam, halva, dates or poppy seeds. The cookie represents Haman’s ears or pointed hat.

This year’s holiday starts on Wednesday (March 23) at sundown and continues through sunset on Thursday. In Jerusalem, Purim will be celebrated from sunset Thursday through sunset Friday.

ISRAEL21c recommends 10 ways to celebrate:

1. Tel Aviv street party

The city of Tel Aviv hosts an annual free street party at Kikar Hamedina, where thousands of partygoers deck out in costume and dance together. This year’s event takes place March 25 at noon to 5pm. Expect top musicians and deejays to keep the beat pumping.

Tel Aviv street party. Photo by Guy Yechiely
Tel Aviv street party. Photo by Guy Yechiely

2. Jerusalem street parties

The annual Nachlaot street party has become synonymous with amazingly creative costumes and the best party vibe in the city. The event is organized by residents of this artsy neighborhood.

The municipality sponsors an official Jerusalem street party for families at Safra Square, scheduled this year for March 25 from 11am to 3pm. On the bill: costume competitions, street performers, bands and clowns.

Young Israelis dressed up in custumes, as is customary during the Jewish holiday of Purim, dance at a street party in the neighborhood of Nachlaot in Jerusalem. The Jewish holiday of Purim commemorates the Jews' salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther which is read in synagogues. Other customs include: sending food parcels and giving charity, dressing up in masks and costumes, eating a festive meal, and public celebration. March 6, 2015. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90
Street party in Nachlaot. Photo by Hadas Parush/FLASH90

3. Adloyada Purim parade

The national Adloyada Purim Parade in Holon features huge floats, thousands of participants and tens of thousands of spectators. There are Purim parades in many communities across the country but Holon’s is always the biggest.

The name, Adloyada, comes from the Talmudic decree mentioned above, that on Purim Jews should drink until they cannot tell the difference (ad lo yada) between the holiday’s evil and heroic characters. However, the Holon Adloyada is intoxicating due to excitement rather than alcohol. This year’s big event is set for March 24 starting at 11:30am.

Holon’s Adloyada Purim parade. Photo by Roni Schutzer/FLASH90
Holon’s Adloyada Purim parade. Photo by Roni Schutzer/FLASH90

4. Schoolchildren on parade

In addition to city-sponsored Adloyada parades, local kindergartens and elementary schools often have their own neighborhood parades. In fact, schools start the revelry a week prior to the holiday and host theme days on which the entire student body and teachers dress up accordingly. The last day of school before the holiday is the day of the local Adloyada. This year, expect to see a whole bunch of pint-sized Luke Skywalkers, Minions, Elsas and superheroes.

Kindergarten children dressed up for Purim. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90
Kindergarten children dressed up for Purim. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90

5. Port Tel Aviv Purim carnival

A free Purim carnival for the whole family is set for March 24 at the Tel Aviv Port between 10am and 4pm. Street artists dress up in traditional costumes from Africa, Brazil, North America and Italy to perform traditional dances, parkour, breakdance and more.

6. Purim at the museum

Jerusalem museums traditionally host Purim events after closing hours.

Head to the Bloomfield Science Museum for a superheroes-themed party (March 23 from 9pm) or take a dramatized tour with figures from the book of Esther at the Bible Lands Museum (March 23-26). The Israel Museum will host a Purim event on March 24 and 25 from 10:30am each day.

A special Purim Race from the Museum of Italian Jewish Art to the Tower of David Museum features different challenges waiting for the runners along the way (March 24, 2pm).

Meanwhile, the Rishon Lezion Museum in the city of the same name will be converted into a traditional African village for Purim and host musical shows and drum workshops on March 25 starting at 10am.

Dressed up for Purim. Photo by Corinna Kern/FLASH90
Dressed up for Purim. Photo by Corinna Kern/FLASH90

7. Hear the Megillah

It is customary to go to synagogue and hear the Megillah – the Scroll of Esther – being read aloud. Congregants often dress up, and while it used to be customary to dress as characters from the Purim story, today’s costumes are like Halloween outfits and will include Disney and Star Wars characters and a whole lot more. Klezmer musicians and shots (for the older congregants) often liven up the affair.

Beit Daniel Reform Synagogue in Tel Aviv hosts two readings – a shortened version for kids and then a rowdier adult-oriented Purim feast. Both events are free.

In Jerusalem, the biggest Megillah reading will take place in Cinema City  on March 24 at 7pm. There will be dancing and ice skating, too!

Reading the Megillah. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/FLASH90
Reading the Megillah. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/FLASH90

8. Nightlife tour

In honor of Purim, the Tel Aviv municipality’s weekly Nightlife Tour will take you to the best parties in town. Meet at the coffee kiosk at the corner of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street on March 24 at 8pm. The Purim fest costs NIS 60 plus entry to the bars.

9. Parties galore

Just about every bar and dance spot will be hosting Purim parties over the weekend. Many of them already kicked off Purim parties last week.

Abraham’s Hostel in Jerusalem is hosting its yearly costume party beginning at 8:30pm, March 23. Patrick’s in Haifa will continue its tradition and host top deejays at its Purim party on March 23 from 9pm.

In Beersheva, university students will travel back in time to the ’90s at the annual Forum Purim party, March 22 from 11pm.

The Roaring 20s Purim Party with jazz band is taking over the ZooZoo venue on Rothschild Boulevard for young English speakers in Tel Aviv. And the legendary HaOman 17 club in Tel Aviv is hosting its annual After-Party, starting on March 26 at 8am.

A huge Purim Rave is set to take place in Jerusalem’s Pais Arena Hall, all night long on March 23.
For a full list of parties around the country (in Hebrew), click here.

Purim in Tel Aviv. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90
Purim in Tel Aviv. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90

10. Two-Days in the Desert

If one day of partying isn’t enough for you, head down to Kfar Hanokdim, near Arad, for a two-day trance party that begins March 25. The Native Groove event will feature local deejays alongside Vertex and Marcus Henriksson. Let’s just say, out in the desert, no one will implement a midnight quiet curfew.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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