by David Wilder –
“I yearned and longed for the city of the Forefathers, I will come thru her gates with song and gratitude, Her elders and privileged, her blessed young and busy achievers”
“To Life to life, called out the townspeople, who greeted the guests. The beadle led them to the synagogue of the Chief Rabbi, assigned rooms, distributed food and also packages for Purim. The next morning they spread out through the city, drank with the residents, received ‘presents to the poor’ and as the sun turned towards the west, headed back in the direction of Jerusalem, to continue the holiday with their families.
Such was Purim in Hebron, as described in Sefer Hebron (page 371).
It is customary that on Rosh Hodesh Adar, the first day of the new month of Adar, two weeks prior to the great day, schoolchildren of almost all ages begin dressing up. Little girls with crowns and makeup, and boys looking like clowns.
Such fun continues, as large signs on sheets announcing the impending coronation of the Rav Purim (Purim Rabbi) adorn homes and street corners. That exciting event usually takes place the Saturday night before Purim, in an extravagant ceremony, sometimes with the chosen person brought before the crowds in an ambulance, police car or on a donkey. Or whatever the amazing, imaginative children can think of.
When Purim evening finally arrives, multitudes fill Ma’arat HaMachpela, some in Shabbat clothing, and others costumed. Serious men wearing orange hair, others masked, with children running between the adults with cap guns and magic wands.
Megilat Esther is joyously read, with the evil Haman being noisily deleted at every mention of his name.
The next morning some arise early to fulfill the days’ first mitzvah, again hearing the Megillah, and then preparing to bring food parcels to some, and money to the poor, to others.
At about eleven o’clock, with tangible electricity in the air, all gather at the top of the hill, at the entrance to the Admot Yishai-Tel Rumeida neighborhood. Children receive helium balloons, waiting for the annual Purim parade, the ‘Adeloyada’ to begin. A large, open wagon, pulled by a tractor invariably driven by Yisrael Zeev, starts to move. Above are huge clown dolls and loudspeakers, playing festive Purim music for the masses who have come to celebrateTraveling down the hill, on to Beit Hadassah and then the Avraham neighborhood, sometimes stopping for a few minutes of dancing and singing. Many dance with soldiers, and children hand out Purim parcels to the men and women in uniform. Finally, after about two hours, reaching Ma’arat HaMachpela. There, those still sober, and even those not so much, participate in an outdoors Mincha afternoon prayer service, before heading home for the festive Purim feast. Singing and dancing continue in the neighborhoods thru nightfall.
However, that is not the end of Purim in Hebron. The first question most people ask about Purim in Hebron is the date. Do we celebrate Purim as most others, on the first day, or as in Jerusalem, on the second day. According to ancient tradition, Hebron is considered to be a ‘city of doubt’ as to whether it was a walled city during the days of Joshua, and therefore, Purim is celebrated twice, and the Megillah is read four times. The first day, with a blessing and the second day, without.
Actually, at present there is no doubt that Hebron was a walled city during the days of Joshua, but other factors remain which create a doubt as to the day when the holiday should be held. So, two days it is.
The major difference between the first and second day is that on the second day, rather than have another Purim parade, the children conduct a ‘Shuk Purim,’ that is an outdoor ‘Purim fair.’ The older children prepare numerous games for the younger children, who can win prizes during outdoor events, when they, for example, throw wet sponges at volunteers’ faces, or try to shave balloons covered with shaving cream, without bursting the balloon.
This festival is topped off with a huge raffle for toys and games, donated to the community by friends around the world.
And then home for the another holiday meal, with as much wine as can be imbibed, for the second day in a row.
Of course, following two days of food, wine and merriment, a third day is necessary to sleep off the holy hangover.
This article does not necessarily represent the views of the Jewish Community of Hebron