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By Danielle Asif, Cleveland’s Shlicha (Israel Emissary)
There is a famous Hebrew quote that says: "Not every day is Purim." This is true, not every day is Purim, but Purim is much more than a day.
In Israel, Purim spreads over a whole week. Children walk around wearing space suits, adults go to work with mouse ears, and even dogs are walked with tutus on. Waiters serve clientele wearing a mustache and turban, and the bank teller performs his job with a sombrero on his head (you have to hold yourself back from laughing)! Last year, I saw Aladdin in Netanya, waiting for the bus.
I was born on Purim (13th of Adar, March 2nd) and grew up in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, we celebrate Purim a day after everyone. Why? Jerusalem is a walled city, like the capital city of Shushan, where the victory celebrations were held on the 15th day of Adar (instead of the 14th).
The preparation for Purim begins one month in advance. Kids start to think about what kind of costume they will wear, attempting to keep their costumes a secret, but always giving it away before Purim!
Two weeks before Purim, at the beginning of the month of Adar, every store around the country is filled with princess dresses, swords, masks, rattles, etc., and all of the volunteer organizations recruit the entire country to help prepare Mishloach Manot (gift baskets) for the needy. Aside from all of the joy, Purim is a special holiday of giving. Indeed, these two concepts go together.
Israelis will spend a whole day (sometimes two) buying costumes and accessories. Kids and parents plan at least 3 costumes- one for school, one for celebration at Grandma and Grandpa's, and a different one for the rest of the week.
When I was a child, during Purim, we would go to school with our costume and our Mishloach Manot. We did not study, just walked around school trying to find the most original and creative costumes. Then we would go to Adloyada (Costume Parade) in the neighborhood, singing and dancing. The school organized a costume contest (I never won), concerts, and games for students. After school we would go to downtown Jerusalem, and walk around, watching people dancing, singing, and jumping with drums in the streets. It was amazing to see how the city became so colorful and joyous!
I also remember celebrating Purim while I was in the army. We had to go to the base with our uniforms on, and only after we arrived, were we allowed to wear our costumes. One soldier dressed up as a military policeman (those who are responsible for order and discipline), and everyone thought it was real. No one wanted to go near him! Subsequently, he won the best costume award.
Now that I am an adult, my friends and I usually go to street parties in Tel Aviv and drink copious amounts of wine. According to the customs of the holiday, celebrators are supposed to drink so much that they can "no longer distinguish between the phrases arur Haman ('cursed is Haman') and baruch Mordechai ('blessed is Mordecai'). If so, what a great holiday!
The saddest part of the day is taking off your costume. After all, you have to get back to your everyday life and clothing. The only plus is that you can now start thinking about what you’ll wear next Purim!