Purim!

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Israel  ,
Friday, March 21, 2008

The Book of Esther recounts the tale of a beautiful woman, Esther, who becomes the queen of King Ahasuerus of Babylon, after Jerusalem fell.  Esther's cousin Mordecai was growing in importance in the royal court.  This stirred the thoughts of Haman, the king's chief advisor.  His jealousy wanted Mordecai dead, so he tricked the king to issue an edict allowing all Jews to be killed, as the king did not know that Esther was Jewish.

Esther invited Haman and the king to dinner, twice.  On the second time, the king asked her what he could do for her and she revealed Haman's plot to kill Mordecai and the Jews, which would include herself.  Haman was then hanged on the very gallows he built to kill Mordecai.

This story is a celebration of Jewish triumph, despite being oppressed by others.

A friend invited me to a Purim celebration at her Messianic Congregation, who celebrate a Jewish tradition while believing Jesus to be the Messiah.  After visiting Hebron, I walked at night to the apartment room where her congregation gathered.  She had to leave just before I arrived, but I joined the group for the festivities.

This year's theme was Alice in Wonderland.  My friend told me that the celebration has taken aspects of Carnival from Venice, so people wear costumes, drink, anything goes for the festival.  Meanwhile in the desert, the largest rave party in Israel was in full swing, seeing that the spring equinox, full moon, and Purim were on the same day.  On the way to the congregation, I found rabbit ears and a bottle of wine in shops of the new city, where pedestrians obey crosswalk signals, and the feeling is one of a modern civilization, albeit a heavily-guarded one.

The celebrations began with a reading of the Book of Esther.  Whenever Haman's name was read, everyone would shake rattlers, boo, hiss, play terrible notes on instruments.  After the reading, people ate some buffet food, drank wine and punch, then danced, a good time.  The celebrations lasted several days, with people dressed in the streets of the newer part of Jerusalem. 

At night, a group from the Palm Hostel went to a local pub in the new part of Jerusalem for some beers and wine.  On the way, we passed people playing instruments and enjoying life in pedestrian walkways lined with modern stores.  The streets were filled with people celebrating and talking with us.  All this celebrating would make Esther happy.
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