Israeli children nationwide entered their classrooms on Sunday and Monday with an amazing range of colorful costumes in anticipation of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which started Monday evening.
In the northern Negev town of Arad, perched on a ridge above the southern end of the Dead Sea, storekeepers also got into the spirit of the holiday.
Effie of “Effie Zol” and his worker, Racheli, were dressed to the nines for the occasion, bringing delight to young customers.
From the north to the south, laughing, smiling children trooped into schools in every village, town and city in the country, most of them to the sound of cheerful Purim songs piped through the buildings’ speaker system.
In many cases, the children came bearing gifts, kid-sized versions of the traditional mishloach manot food packages gifted by Jews to each other to celebrate the ancient holiday.
Purim dates back to the 5th Century BCE that marks the rescue of the Jewish People from the Persian Viceroy of the time, Haman, by Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai. Haman issued a decree ordering the annihilation of Jewish men, women and children throughout the Persian Empire; the order was countermanded by King Ahashuerus once it was revealed by his Jewish Queen, Esther.
The holiday is called “Purim” — literally “lots” in ancient Persian — because Haman threw lots to determine when he would carry out the destruction, according to the Biblical Book of Esther, known as the “Megillah.”
In addition to the gifts they exchange on the holiday, Jews listen to a live reading of the Book of Esther from a scroll written by a scribe on parchment, give charity to at least two needy individuals, eat a three-cornered pastry resembling Haman’s hat, called “hamantaschen” and sit down to a festive meal to celebrate the event.