Time flies! I guess that means I’m having fun! I just realized it’s almost a month since I arrived. Ulpan courses ended on the 21st of February and this was followed by the Purim holiday long weekend here in Jerusalem. This weekend I definitely got to see a completely different side of this beautiful city.
Purim,from what I’ve read and been informed by friends and locals, is the Jewish celebration commemorating Queen Esther of Persia and her successful deliverance of the Jews from Haman, Vizier of Persia in 5th C B.C, who wanted to exterminate all Jews in a single day. Through Purim a festive spirit abounds through the city streets and all take part in the celebrations, kids, parents, grandparents and even pets join in! People dress up in costume, gather in the streets and celebrate the holiday together.
As for me… well I didn’t have a costume, and I couldn’t find one. I tried the local dollar store but everything was sold out. People really get into the spirit of the holiday! Nonetheless, I did head out to see how the city was transformed and I ended up scoring a free ticket to Hebrew University’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Purim Party, which has a reputation for being a kicking shindig. This year’s theme was Electro Circus, and I got the ticket by volunteering to make some of the props and help decorate the party location.
The party was on Sunday evening and through the set up and decorating process I got to interact with, and see some of Bezalel’s most, and Israel’s future, talented artists in action transforming a three-floor location into an awesome party scene. Now for anyone that has the delusion that Jerusalem is a very conservative city and nowhere near as lively as Tel Aviv, this event certainly proved this illusion to be false. Jerusalem can be rocking! With three floors of some serious fist pumping music and some wildly innovative and creative costumes I ended up having an amazing time. Heading home at 3:30am I was told I was leaving early!
Monday, after having recovered my sleep from the previous night, a couple of friends and I headed out to explore the city streets and see what else was happening.
The streets were filled with people dressed up and still celebrating. In the city there were balloons all around, people in costumes and the smell of cotton candy filled the air. My friends and I even ran into a block party in the neighbourhood of Nahala’ot- one of Jerusalem’s neighbourhoods with the highest concentration of synagogues!
It is quite hard to pinpoint what this celebration was like. There’s certainly not something like this anywhere in the world I’ve been to.The closest I could describe it would be a mixture of the costumes and trick or treating of Halloween, with the atmosphere of Caribana… and maybe a little bit of the gift giving spirit of Christmas thrown in there… Hard to imagine? Yes, I had a hard time taking it in but you really just have to experience it! If I confirmed something this weekend it was how unique and surprising Jerusalem is.
On another note, this is the first week of the Spring Semester! It couldn’t be a more beautiful week! The weather has been in the low 20’s, sunny and with the softest but refreshing spring breeze blowing through. The cherry blossoms are out in full bloom and the birds are chirping away, definitely a great way to start classes!
Thanks for reading, and belated Purim Sameach! (Happy Purim! In Hebrew)