On Wednesday night and Thursday, EIE celebrated Purim. Today, we celebrated Shushan Purim, a holiday unique to Jerusalem with roots in the Book of Esther. In the ninth of ten chapters, Queen Esther asks King Ahasuerus for an additional day for the Jews of Shushan, a walled city, to defend themselves, a request that the king grants. According to tradition, cities surrounded by a wall since ancient times celebrate the victory of the Jewish People over Haman on the day after everyone else celebrates. As a result, EIE enjoyed THREE days of Purim.
Students put on a performance at Tzuba on Wednesday evening complete with costumes. On Thursday, they spent much of the day in Tel Aviv, enjoying the beautiful weather and atmosphere.
This morning, we met at the Kotel where we divided up and the girls joined the Megillah reading of Women of the Wall and the guys joined me on the other side of the mehitza (the divider between the women’s and men’s sections of the Kotel). There was a festive atmosphere on the women’s side at the Kotel that included a loud reading, singing and dancing. The men’s side was more reserved. There, we read the first and last chapters of Esther in Hebrew, while the other chapters were covered by the students reading the various roles of the story.
After the reading, I had the chance to ask some of our female students about the experience. They really enjoyed the reading, the singing, and the dancing. They conveyed a sense of confidence about the experience. Along the way, the girls told me that at some point during the reading an older women started yelling at the group from a distance. Bothered by the fact that women were reading out loud, she yelled that the group would be struck by lightning, that they would be cursed, etc. To be clear, this was one person yelling from a distance, as explained to me, and not a group of people. Our female students were safe during the entire visit. Not to be prevented from enjoying the moment, the girls and the others attending the Women of the Wall reading burst into celebration and dance.
Our female EIE students were not upset by the event; rather, they were curious as to why this woman chose to respond as she did. We discussed it briefly. I explained that this is one example of why maintaining a democratic and Jewish State is both so important and such a challenge. As we were short on time, or at least so we thought until there was a brief delay in the arrival of the bus to take students back to Tzuba, we kept the conversation short. It is a topic I will revisit with our students as it is a crucial thing for them to understand about the beauty and challenge of the modern State of Israel.
Today, we read about Haman, our ancient adversary who tried to wipe out the Jewish People. He failed. We prevailed. On Sunday, we leave Israel for Poland where we will bear witness to the attempts of the modern version of Haman, Hitler, to exterminate our People. Just as Haman failed in his time, Hitler failed in his. Our children are testimony to Hitler’s failure to wipe out our people, our traditions, our culture and our religion.