Thursday, March 12, 2009

Purim in a walled city.

.פורים בעיר בחומה

I've had fun on Purim before, but celebrating in Jerusalem has been an entirely different experience. The fact that most of the people I encounter are celebrating the same Jewish holiday I am has made commemorating this most recent holiday--like others before and to come--particularly acute and memorable.

You could tell it was getting close to Purim even at the beginning of this week as children were walking to school in costume. Although the holiday was still several days off, the Purim spirit was alive in the air: hamentaschen (אוזני המן) have been in the bakeries for about two weeks, candies and gifts have been on sale, and even the liturgical calendar has been special for the Shabbatot preceding Purim. Anticipation was high for the annual fun-fest that is Purim.

In Jerusalem, as in other ancient walled cities (just a handful of cities in Israel), Purim is celebrated a day later than in the rest of the Jewish world. So, although "Shushan Purim" (as the delayed commemoration is known) began on Tuesday night, when I and my fellow volunteers traveled outside to Jerusalem to be with our families at the absorption center in Mivasseret Tzion, we entered into a Purim Zone and were allowed to have a Purim party for the kids of the neighborhood. We had sweets as well as art stations to make masks and noise-makers for the holiday. We played music and sang a Purim song. Though most of the kids who came weren't part of the families we work with, it was great to see a large room full of kids coloring clowns and wearing paper masks in celebration of Purim.

On Tuesday night, HUC had its own Purim celebration. I was one of the six primary planners and actors in our Purim service/play, and we had a terrific time. I got to stretch my creative muscles by writing six songs that fit the themes of the evening service and that could also fit into our pop music-style version of the Purim story. This was my favorite:

The Promised Land (an adaptation of Mi Chamocha sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ Kokomo)

Samaria, Judea – ooo I wanna take ya
Through Moab, through Amon – come on, pretty mama.
Akko, Megido – Baby, why don’t we go?

Judea-
’Cross these mountains of sand,
There’s a place called “the Promised Land.”
That’s where God’s always planned
To make a home for us all.

Now we’ve crossed the sea;
Our God has taken us from slavery.
We’ll be swimming in milk
Tasting trees dripping with fig honey
Down in the Promised Land.

Samaria, Judea – ooo I wanna take ya
Through Moab, through Amon – come on, pretty mama.
Akko, Megido – Baby, why don’t we go?
Ooo I wanna take you to the Promised Land.

We’ll get there fast
Under our God’s command.
With a mighty arm and an outstretched hand:
Straight to the Promised Land.

Yes we can: from Be’er Sheva to Dan!

Now we’ve crossed the sea;
We dance with drum and tambourine.
I will sing to the Lord
For You have triumphed glor(i)ously!

Who is like You, o God,
Among the other gods?
The Lord will reign forever,
Doing wonders, awesome in splendor.
Down in the Promised Land…

Samaria, Judea – ooo I wanna take ya
Through Moab, through Amon – come on, pretty mama.
Akko, Megido – Baby, why don’t we go?
Ooo I wanna take you to the Promised Land.

We’ll get there fast
Under our God’s command.
With a mighty arm and an outstretched hand:
Straight to the Promised Land.

From Mount Nebo, we can see Jericho!


Singing at the service/spiel

The service got a lot of acclaim, and my co-authors/actors and I were very proud of the work we created. And, of course, we had a ton of fun! The megillah-reading in the middle of the service was also fantastic. All the cantorial students as well as some rabbinical students participated in reading the entire megillah (which is rare), and many of them read with strong expression and intent in order to convey the meaning behind the words. The chanting was beautiful and the text came alive - really terrific!


Megillah reading in costume

After the service and megillah reading, we had dinner at HUC, followed by a beit cafe (the Israeli version of a talent show), during which the highlight was Shacharit the Musical, which poked fun at Reform and HUC music and prayer traditions. Really delightful!

The following day (Wednesday) was a second day off of school, and Jessica and I had the opportunity to get out into the beautiful weather. We went to the shuk (market) to do our usually grocery shopping, but unusually, many customers and shoptenders were in costume or at least wearing funny hats. It was amazing to see so many adults going about their regular business in costume. If we had known, we would have brought our camera!

As we neared our apartment after shopping, we heard some loud music and decided to investigate. We dropped off our bags, grabbed the camera, and went to the pedestrian mall area near our apartment. There, we found a street fair with performers, cotton candy, and tons of people in costumes!


Superman on Hillel Street.

We ran into a pair of HUC faculty, and they told us that if we liked what we saw here, we should go to Mamilla Mall (near the Old City) where there was an even larger street fair. Of course we did, and we found there children's games, actors on stilts, and more Israelis than I've ever seen in this Anglo-friendly shopping center. It was terrific!


Queen Esther and admirers


Purim performer


Mordechai and Haman on stilts


Drummers' circle

After the street fair, we had a lovely walk through the warm and blossoming hills of Yemin Moshe, caught a glimpse of some Bratslavers celebrating off of Keren Ha-Yesod St., and were approached by a Yiddish-speaking man who managed to communicate to Jessica (to no avail) that he needed help finding his "friends."

Given that this was mid-March in the middle of the week, our Wednesday was certainly as topsy-turvey as one could hope on Purim. I certainly hope this isn't the last chance I have to celebrate in Jerusalem!

1 comment:

Elyse Crane said...

I can almost hear the music and smell the hamentaschen - and I most definitely will be humming your quite witty version of the Beach Boy's Bermuda (Shwartz?)for the rest of the night!