Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Purim! (Part One)

We're right in the middle of the wild, wacky, fun and (yes) spiritual holiday of Purim.  Purim started last night.  Or about three weeks ago, depending on whether one is looking at the calendar or judging by the number of children walking around wearing costumes.  In no particular order, here are some random thoughts on Purim in Israel:

--MANY tzedaka collectors come to the door.  While this is a general Purim custom, in Malden we always had exactly zero collectors.  Here it's a whole new ballgame.  Starting about three days ago, we began getting several each evening (we do oftentimes get one or two a night, but that's a different blog post.  So interesting!).

This is a big time for young men to collect money for their yeshivas.  I have heard that it goes to their Rebbis/teachers to supplement their salary.  If so, I see that they do need to go to many houses, since the standard donation is 5 or 10 NIS, which equals about $1.25-$2.50.  Shalom Shachne went to the bank to get rolls of 5 and 10 coins (and may I just take this opportunity to say how lovely having a coin that is worth real money is?  The 10 shekel coin is my favorite.  Also because it's pretty :)).  He came home empty-handed, though, because the bank told him he should have PRE-ORDERED his coins!  "Wait, let me get this straight: you went to the bank and they didn't have MONEY?!?!"  Luckily, he went early enough in the week that he was able to get our coins in time.

--Last night, we heard the megillah reading at the BIG shul in our neighborhood (we decided that Matthew in Malden is the best megillah reader, though.  If you have the opportunity to hear him, please do!).  The small shul that we normally go to has a custom that people only make noise on the first and last "Haman" (booooo).  The Rabbi there explained that the important thing is to hear every word of the megillah, not to make noise when hearing Haman's name (booooo).

Afterwards, everyone went home to get dinner started while I went to deliver mishloach manot to a family that is collecting them to bring to soldiers who are training nearby.  Unfortunately, I misplaced the paper with the family's address on it.  I thought it was building 34 apartment 5.  Building 34 is a very typical Israeli apartment building: first I went upstairs.  Nope.  Then I went to the apartments downstairs.  Nope.  Then I ran into someone I know who lives in the building.  He didn't know the family or where the exact apartment was, but suggested that I look to the right and left of the main building.  Nope.  By the time I gave up and went home (it was 34/4.  argh) the streets, which had been thronged only 7 or 8 minutes before with people leaving all the shuls at approximately the same time, were almost empty.  Guess the thought of eating after the Fast of Esther was pretty tempting ;)

--Our mishloach manot continued the theme of being new olim.  After searching and searching I found a container that looks like a suitcase.  We put in the iconic Israeli snack foods Bamba (peanut butter flavored corn puffs.  Likely the biggest reason that peanut allergy is rare here because people give to babies as a finger food) and Bissli (MSG-laden salty snack), along with biscuit cookies I dipped in chocolate and covered with blue and white sprinkles.  The cookies were packaged in a sandwich bag and tied with a knot, which is a very Israeli thing to do (I used to wonder how the Israelis tied their bags.  I never had enough bag left to do that.  Then I bought my first box and discovered that Israeli sandwich bags are bigger than American bags!).  Everyone got a keychain (either the Israeli flag or one of Israeli currency for people who are less Zionistically-inclined).

We even made a poem for the front:

With our suitcases packed
We made Aliyah
Thanks for joining us
We've come so fah! (sorry, we're from Boston....)

Ilana and I put the "suitcases" in a pile and then commented on how much it reminded us of before we left for Israel (Deb, Frank and Noreen, I hope you don't have PTSD looking at the photo!).

--There was a parade of cars yesterday for a big charity campaign in town.  The locals (especially a few at our house) were excited when a sign went up last month that implied that Starbucks was coming to town.  Despite the disappointment that the signs turned into "Give Bucks", it is a cute campaign and enjoyable to see how people decorated their cars.

--We had a play in ulpan on Monday.  Shalom Shachne had a star turn as Mordechai, here seen overhearing the guards plot to kill King Ahashverous:

And I made a wonderful (if I do say so) monkey in the Hebrew version of "Caps for Sale" (we also did another piece where we all had to speak).
My class.  We're a very diverse group in age, native country, etc, but what a great bunch of people!

--Ilana, with Penina's help, made a really cute costume.  She's going as Fluttershy from My Little Pony:

--Kids were playing balloon ball on a bus the other day!  The driver didn't get angry when it went into his area, just waited until the next stop and batted it back to them.

--So things are a little crazy and likely to get a lot crazier as the day goes on and people drink more.  Penina got a text to her class list asking another girl if "10 guys with red shirts just danced into your house?!"  It is, evidently, not uncommon for yeshiva guys to just walk into people's houses today.  I think that, for once, we'll lock our door :)

Off to shul!  Happy Purim!

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