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Purim in Israel

Adar, the month that is marked by the celebration of Purim, is the most joyous month of the Hebrew calendar. In fact, the saying is, “When Adar comes, joy is increased.”

For the first two weeks of the month, children all over Israel wear different costumes and accessories, which adds to the wonderful, colorful atmosphere. It’s common for young children to greet their parents after preschool in simple handmade costumes, which they made at school out of newspaper or plastic bags. All public schools in Israel are closed for three days for Purim, and the last day of school sees kids of all ages wearing costumes to school and bringing decorated baskets filled with treats, shalach manot, for their friends.  The month before Purim is high season at toy stores as parents rush to buy their child’s favorite Purim costume.

Purim is the one time of year where we can live out our fantasies and be whatever we wish to be. Common people can dress as kings, generals, or pirates without being considered mentally disturbed. If you really want to know what’s going on, just look around at the different costumes. This year, Mubarak, the former president of Egypt, and Quaddafi, Libya’s leader, are two of the most popular costumes, thanks to the recent events in the Middle East.

Costumes tell a lot about demographics, trends and socio-economic status, too. Secular neighborhoods in Tel Aviv display costumes based on movie characters, TV celebrities, and sports stars, such as the new blue Avatar costume or luminous Tinkerbell for girls, along with Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, and Darth Vader and Yoda from Star Wars.

However, in more religious areas such as some of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods, all these “secular” images are not familiar to children nor approved by the religious authorities, so the classic costumes based on Mordechai, Queen Esther and King Ahaseureus will always be popular.

Purim holiday sales this year are expected to reach a total of $17 million. Sales of accessories are expected to reach $8 million.
A concern for the environment has lead to costumes made of recycled paper, but the data also indicate that among the secular public in Israel, about 70 percent buy new costumes every year. The religious population, especially the ultra-Orthodox, prefers to reuse costumes. So who is actually more sensitive to the environment?

Happy Purim from Israel!

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