Monday, March 5, 2012

Purim in the Holy Land: Tales of Disguise, Mirth and the Constant Threat of Haman

The American Colony's "Book Club" (1898). Almost certainly
not Purim-related, but great costumes!
 Purim provides the Jewish comics' classic example of a Jewish Holiday: 

"They tried to kill us. We survived.  Let's eat!"

The Jews of Palestine used to celebrate heartily at the Purim Adloyada ["until they don't know"] festival and parade held in Tel Aviv in the 1920s and 30's.  Some commentators make a crude comparison to Marde Gras partying, but the merriment is based on an ancient rabbinic tradition of Jews imbibing on Purim to the point where they do not know the difference between sobriety and drunkenness, between Mordechai and Haman -- but without losing their wits.

Purim celebration in Tel Aviv (1934)
Purim carnival in Tel Aviv (1934)
The Purim tale did not take place in Eretz Yisrael, but in Persia.  A villain named Haman arose and tried to destroy the Jewish people.  Through guile and disguise, Mordechai and Esther were able to thwart Haman's genocidal plans and save the Jewish people.  To this day there is a custom to dress up in disguises.
The "Queen Esther" of the carnival in 1934

Jerusalem Drama Society in costume
(not believed to be
 related to Purim) 1940
Click on the photos to enlarge.

Click on the captions to see the originals.

The parallels between Haman's threat and the threats against Israel from Persia/Iran today are stark and worrisome. 

Purim parade in Tel Aviv with a float
of a dangerous 3-headed
Nazi dragon (1934)

Tel Aviv Purim float of Nazi cannons
(screen capture from 1933 film)
 But the threats to the Jewish people were also apparent to the photographers of the American Colony who photographed Purim celebrations in Tel Aviv in the early 1930s. They photographed parade floats showing the Nazi threats.

Another movie photographer filmed a float in 1933 showing dangerous Nazi cannons.  A screen capture from the film is presented here. 

View Yaakov Gross' film of the Tel Aviv celebrations in the 1930s here:  Visit his wonderful collection of films here.

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