Jerusalem prepares for Purim revelry
It's not often that a visitor to Jerusalem could find all of the Jews in city caught up in an uproar of revelry. The Jewish and Israeli holidays tend to inspire fairly muted celebration - the kids downtown let their hair down with a certain enthusiasm on fireworks-filled Independence Day, of course, and every holiday but the solemn Yom Kippur has its cherished public traditions, but nobody gets too wild. Except, that is, on Purim: the one day a year when everybody in west Jerusalem, from ultra-Orthodox Meah Shearim to the youthful, secular city center, goes absolutely nuts.
Purim is unique in Jerusalem; due to a somewhat esoteric Jewish law concerning Purim practice in cities that sported walls during the time of Joshua's invasion, Jerusalemites celebrate a day later than everyone else - and much harder.
The day is family-friendly; children all over the city dress up as favorite cartoon characters or fantasy conceits (the fairy princess is alive and well in the minds of little Middle Eastern girls) and take to the streets in the Israeli version of Halloween. Families sit down together for a festive meal. Friends exchange colorfully festooned baskets of edible gifts called mishloach manot. Good Samaritans donate money and food to charities for the city's poor, another holiday tradition. Vendors in Machane Yehuda sell hamantaschen by the kilo. And then, after the megillah has been read and the children tucked in, things start getting rowdy.
Among Purim's more popular traditions is a requirement to become so thoroughly intoxicated that one cannot distinguish between cursing the villain of the Purim story and blessing its hero, and in Jerusalem, that tradition is hewed to with unusual vigor. Every bar is filled to capacity and crowds spill into the streets, boisterously singing, dancing and covering the city and each other in streams of silly string.
Yes, it's a pretty good time:
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