Israel is a great place to be on the Jewish holiday of Purim, celebrated this year from sunset March 20 through sundown March 21 (March 21-22 in Jerusalem).
Marking the events described in the biblical book of Esther, in which Mordechai and his cousin Esther help the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire triumph over the murderous plot of evil court official Haman, Purim is primetime for parties, costumes and treats.
Here’s ISRAEL21c’s guide to a rockin’ Purim in Israel.
1. Party it up in the streets
Purim in Israel is one big party, and lucky for you, you’re more likely to be spoiled for choice than left out in the springy “cold.”
But with all the street parties, parades, all-night club and bar parties, remember to take “ad lo yada” — the notion that people should drink until they don’t know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys in the Purim story — with a big grain of salt. In other words: Drink and party responsibly!
Clubs in major cities are sure to be packed wall to wall with special events, like Purim Land — a giant DJ-fueled Tel Aviv party held at a secret location — but so are the city streets with annual parades like this one in Tel Aviv and this legendary one in Holon, appropriately named “Ad Lo Yada.”
The theme of this year’s Holon festival is carnivals of the world, so expect all kinds of shenanigans like circus performers, dancers, roller-skaters, floats, and displays from around the world, and of course crowds dressed in full Purim costume.
And don’t even think of missing out on Purim in Jerusalem — the craziest day of the year in the holy city – celebrated the day after Purim elsewhere (this year Friday, March 22). Check out the annual street party in the Nachlaot neighborhood: thousands of people in wild costumes, stands from local businesses selling their goods, and DJs all along Nissim Bachar Street and Gezer Square.
2. Take your partying in a different direction
If wild street and club parties aren’t your cup of tea, keep your eyes peeled for special events in other venues, like these:
Tailormade99 cocktail bar’s whimsical Alice in Wonderland themed ticketed dinner service in Tel Aviv, curated by Chef Benny Azulay with a secret menu based on the classic tale. For tickets and info, click here.
A 1980s-themed bash in the upscale Whisky Bar and Museum at the edge of the trendy Sarona Market complex includes drinks (first one with your event ticket is free) and a portal back to the fun decade with DJ Amir Point. For tickets and info, click here.
Or try the ultimate 5-day Purim package at Abraham Hostels, which not only gets you into the hostel’s Purim party festivities happening in their Jerusalem and Tel Aviv locations (and shuttles you there), but also gains you access to their famous Tel Aviv pub crawl, takes you to and from the best street parties in Jerusalem, and ends with a relaxing trip to Masada and Ein Gedi to recover from the mayhem in an awe-inspiring backdrop.
The Purim Desert Carnival is held March 21-23 in Ashram BaMidbar (Ashram in the Desert), a vegan community in one of Israel’s most isolated locations 45 minutes south of the Ramon Crater. Expect lots of dancing, workshops, performances and parties with likeminded souls from all over the world.
3. Family-friendly events
Purim is not only a time for parties. It is also a time when Israel’s museums and theaters put on special programs to celebrate the holiday with a spirit of pure family-friendly fun.
At Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, in conjunction with the “Mirror Doubles” workshop, a Purim clown performance will focus on mirror science, dress-up and balloons. Two shows are scheduled on March 20-23, see website for details.
Check out events such as the Purim Race at the Tower of David Museum, which involves racing through the city’s museums and streets to find clues and solve riddles enacted by street performers; or head up to Haifa’s National Maritime Museum for its Superhero Happening and Purim Pirate activities surrounding the “Superheroes of the Sea” exhibition.
For a theatrical experience, search for local performances like the four-day Yaron Festival of children’s theater at Porat Theater in Tel Aviv. This year’s schedule includes Hebrew versions of Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes.
4. Make your own fun, for you and your kids
Get into the spirit of things by doing some fun kid activities on your own terms.
March is peak strawberry season in Israel. As mild rainy winters encourage the earth to turn lush and green, it is the perfect time to get out there and pick your own berries on farms like Ruach Shtut in Gan Shmuel, just outside of Hadera. We suggest getting dressed up and enjoying all the juicy gems you can gobble down, for a healthy Purim treat.
If Purim day is rainy, why not cuddle up inside with some awesomely fun Purim activities and crafts, like these created by Israeli artist Jenny Lipets, found in her Mazel Tov Shop?
5. Hear a Megillah reading
See what the origin of the holiday is all about by getting back to the roots. Megillat Esther (Scroll of
Esther) is read aloud at night (March 20) and morning (March 21) – a day later in Jerusalem; see above — and you can duck into any Israeli shul, no questions asked.
Just make sure you observe the appropriate customs in Orthodox shuls, such as women praying separately from men and dressing modestly, and bring a noisemaker to drown out evil Haman’s name!
Another option is casually strolling into one of the many public Megillah readings sponsored by the Tzohar organization.
Chabad centers such as this one in downtown Haifa, are known for throwing educational parties and holiday celebrations open to students, young couples and travelers from all backgrounds.
6. Bakery hop for hamantaschen
Halloween has its candy, but Purim easily trumps that with its bakery-fresh hamantaschen (called oznei Haman, or “Haman’s ears” in Hebrew). With inventive fillings and doughs, both savory and sweet — traditional flavors are poppy seed, date and the oh-so-popular Israeli chocolate spread — most every bakery in any city is going to have a stash for you to sample.
If new uncharted hamantaschen flavors are what you seek, check out Roladin, which has locations all over the country. On Roladin’s 2019 list of flavors is a grown-up almond-crusted cookie with ricotta cream and lemon filling, and chocolate praline made with an almond butter cookie dough, and finished with a dark chocolate glaze.
Alternatively, why not make your own? Watch our video below to find out how to do it. The recipe itself is here.
7. Dress the part
Whether you’re more inclined to go traditional (that is dress up like Esther or Haman), or wear a costume from a movie that came out last year (which honestly, you’ll have an easier time procuring), there’s no need to make your own or spend a fortune.
Any discount store in Israel is bound to have an array of costumes and accessories to choose from, for a desirable price. Try Max Stock, which has stores country-wide, and a wide selection of cheap costumes and masks that do the trick.
8. Don’t panic… and other survival tips
One of the less charming Purim traditions you will undoubtedly notice on the streets is Israeli teens making lots of noise and mess with annoying little poppers and silly spray. So do not panic if you hear a loud popping noise, or smell the sweet smell of plastic foam — just don’t say we didn’t warn you.
If you do venture out into the fun, bring a change of clothes, some water (this is Israel–stay hydrated!) and anything else you might need for a night-out survival kit—such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Should you need assistance, dialing 911 in Israel will get you nowhere. Find all the emergency and service numbers you will ever need here.
And of course, it always helps to know where the public bathrooms are.
If you’d rather avoid the noise during your Purim visit to Israel, take this time to plan your rural retreat. Staying in a city center on Purim is bound to be a loud experience.
9. Enjoy Israeli spirits
You’re in Israel for the one holiday that encourages you to get stupid drunk (but please remember our plea to drink responsibly!), so you might as well support the grassroots craft spirits industry while you’re at it.
Israeli-made alcohols such as the mysterious Tubi 60; the interestingly complex whisky from the Golan Heights Distillery; and anise-infused araks like Arak Masada will give you a sense of the big strides being made in this industry.
If you’re not a hard alcohol person, don’t worry: Israeli has more than 100 varieties of craft beer, and countless wineries. Specialty supermarkets like Tiv Tam are your best bet for finding a good variety of wines and craft beers coming from across the country.
10. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to drive
Ever tried to park in Tel Aviv on a normal day? It’s a tedious and frustrating task at best on any given Monday, let alone on one of the city’s busiest holidays. Plus, drinking and driving is always a bad idea.
Therefore, we suggesting utilizing the many other ways of getting around in Israel on Purim, such as Israel Railways, cabs (try the Gett app for cab drivers who drive for ratings, and pick you up whenever you need); and other ridesharing solutions such as Waze rideshare (look on the app for drivers who happen to be passing by you on their way home); and Uber, which operates in Tel Aviv.
Other public transport such as buses and Jerusalem’s light rail, Haifa’s Carmelit “subway” and fast-track bus Metronit all help you get around without having to get behind the wheel. Use the Moovit app to check schedules and real-time arrival info.
Topics: culture, travel, Purim