Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Purim - a Month Long Holiday



When I woke up and came up the stairs this morning, I found a clown eating breakfast. "What is that?" I said to myself...and then I remembered - Adar has arrived. Today is Rosh Hodesh Adar. That means that it's the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar - the month where Purim falls. And that means...that it's time to party!

When we lived in the States, Purim was certainly fun. The kids dressed up and we enjoyed the day of Purim. Here, Purim is literally two to three weeks long for the one day holiday. Rosh Hodesh Adar is a very festive day - as it's the day when the month begins. Yehuda was told in school yesterday that he should bring a funny hat to school today, and during the day they will have all sorts of fun activities. When I first taught in an Israeli school, I was warned that I wouldn't get anything done on this day, but I had no idea what that warning would mean. While teaching my first class, a line of 10 boys suddenly burst into class singing a song about Purim. They proceeded to circle through the entire class and then to leave. This must have occured another 20 times during the day. Then, for the entire two weeks leading up to Purim, there were all sorts of activities in school and other distractions.

And that, really, is life in Israel. Purim isn't a one day holiday - it's a month. It's something the kids eat and breathe and talk about for weeks and weeks on end before it arrives. The stores are already bursting with Purim costumes. My kids have all decided what they will be for Purim. And keep in mind that they need to be three different things - because they dress up in school, at home for a parade, and then as part of our family costume (it's a secret!) for delivering Misloach Manot and having the Seudah. Josh said, jokingly, this morning, "Well, I guess the school year is over now." And while it's sort of a joke, Rosh Hodesh Adar does mark the beginning of Purim, then Pesach, and then the winding down of the school year.

As is also so typical in Israel, today is also tinged with sadness. Last year, on this evening, an Arab opened fire at Mirkaz HaRav Yeshiva while the students were preparing for a Rosh Hodesh party. He killed 8 innocent students - including a 15 year old boy from Neve Daniel - Segev Avichail. The night that it happened, we all knew that this event had occured, of course. What we didn't know were the names of the students who had been killed. I woke up the next morning to find an SMS on my phone from the Yishuv. When I called a friend to ask if he could translate it for me, there was complete silence, and then tears on the other end of the line. We all awoke that morning to the message that Segev's funeral would be that afternoon. "Segev's funeral?" everyone said. "What funeral?" And that's how we found out that one of our own community members had been killed. Killed in the library of his Yeshiva was trying to cram in a few more minutes to learn before the festivities for Rosh Hodesh Adar began. A few days ago, his family opened a beautiful garden in the yishuv in his memory. I can't imagine - and I hope I'll never be able to imagine - what they have endured this year.

And so, it is with great anticipation and excitement, and yet with a slightly heavy heart, that we enter the month of Adar. May it be a fun, peaceful, and entirely gay one for us this year and may we remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live and enjoy in this crazy country of ours.

Enjoy!

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