Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Purim!!

Well Purim is here, the first holiday since Chanukah and and we wanted to share something with you.

Among the many traditions that are celebrated for the holiday, the custom of dressing up is taken to a whole other level in Israel. It seems that every Halloween store in the US sends extra stock in March to Israel, it's very strange watching Haredim in Mea Shearim shop for costumes for their children with Scream masks in the background.

Tonight was the first Magillah reading (the book of Ester), with a Purim shpeil to go with it prepared by the students of my Yeshiva. It was a riot, one of the students in my class is a budding-film maker and showed some of his films (His big film can be seen here

The three other major traditions of the holiday are:
1. Matanot L'evyonim (money/food for the poor)
2. Mishloach Manot (sending food to your friends for them to use in their Purim meal)
3. The Purim Seudah (festive meal, much like the other festival meals, but with Hamentashen)
Basically the idea is to remember other people while we are enjoying the holiday. That and the Megillah itself mentions these concepts.

Tomorrow morning is another recitation of the Megillah and then we are off to Ramat Beit Shemesh for the weekend. On Sunday, Jerusalem celebrates Purim, Shushan Purim, (actually it's all weekend long) so we are going to one of Naomi's Rabbi's house, to celebrate with his family. Jerusalem does it on the day after the rest of the world because it was/is a walled city.

It's a pretty special time in Israel, the whole country has been eagerly anticipating the holiday. I'm sure during our previous descriptions of the holidays, you've understood that there really is nothing like holidays in Israel, and Purim might be the most radically different of them all. It's a holiday that reaches across religious boundaries, it doesn't matter how observant one is, it seems that the whole country is celebrating together.

On an unfortunately sad note, today Naomi's great-uncle Billy (grandpa Julie's brother) passed away. Uncle Billy was a very special man to the entire Oppenheim family, having never married or had children, his nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews were a huge part of who he was. I (Naomi) have great memories of him laughing and making fun with us during all sorts of occasions. It seems very appropriate for Uncle Billy to pass away near Purim, despite that he was not religious, because Purim is a time of making fun and "turning things upside down" and in all my memories of him that is what he did. He always had the funniest smile on his face and always made what seemed straight, sound hysterically crooked. Uncle Billy was also a decorated WWII veteran who had lost much of his hearing as a result of an explosion going off too close to him, sometimes making conversations with him even funnier- and I promise you he would not have had it any other way. Uncle Billy we love you very much and we will miss you greatly. (His funeral will be this coming Monday in Virginia in our family plots.) Baruch Dayan Emet.

I hope to post again on Sunday catching up a few posts I've been meaning to write with some pictures of our adventures in the past month of so.
So till then, Purim Sameach (Happy Purim)!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Great Israel site

I recently found a wonderful website that really shows some of the picturesque sights we see when touring the country.

Maybe I'll eventually learn how to take pictures like these: