Harem dancers, Arabian princesses, pirates, Cleopatras and Marilyns and combinations of fanciful hats, feather boas and colorful fishnet tights will be the preferred costumes among adults this year, says Helen, who works at Happening on Rehov Ben-Yehuda. Sponge Bob is king for the kids this Purim, with Dragon Ball a close second choice for boys and princesses the rule for girls. North of Rehov Strauss, however, Purim disguises are somewhat less revealing. Yocheved, a haredi ba'al teshuva (newly religious) mother of nine from Mea She'arim, says she will have a Shabbos Queen, a Kohen Gadol (High Priest), a Mordechai, two Queen Esthers, a Haman and a soldier among her brood. "Of course I influence my children's choice of costume," she says, "but within the parameters, I let them decide. We do not watch television, so we do not identify with a lot of the options of other communities. We discourage violence and forbid immodesty. But when a child chooses to dress as Haman, it also says something about him, about pushing the boundaries of self-expression. In a similar way we encourage someone who has a teiva for blood to become a mohel or a shohet [ritual slaughterer]." Angel and devil costumes, says Sarah, a mother of six from Har Nof, are not allowed at her children's haredi schools. Angels "do not look like that," and devils are simply "out of the question." Miriam, mother of six from Ma'aleh Adumim, insists she has never and will never allow her children to dress as devils. "There is no need for it, as much as it can be seen as funny, the devil is representative of evil in all cultures and I cannot understand why anyone would choose that option on Purim, such a holy day." Sarah adds that the schools in Har Nof do not allow costumes that are associated with violence, therefore any outfit that would need weapons as an accessory would be considered "out." According to the principal of a modern Orthodox high school in Ma'aleh Adumim, most costume choices are acceptable, although boys are not allowed to dye their hair or dress as women. Abigail, from Shilo, says that there is usually a preponderance of Supermen and princesses in her neighborhood, but that she will be dressing her one-year-old as a strawberry, since she already has strawberry pyjamas. Cross-dressing is generally allowed in Ashkenazi Orthodox communities, but outlawed among Sephardim. Among the modern Orthodox, girls are allowed to wear trousers as long as these are clearly recognizable as women's garments, for example very wide bellbottoms. Among haredim, however a girl sporting a beard and hassidic side curls is expected to be wearing a skirt that covers the pants until at least below the knee. Dressing children as non-kosher animals is permissible, says Sarah, because "rabbits and cats and bears are not kosher and yet children wear these kinds of costumes all the time." Of course, she adds, dressing as a pig would be considered inappropriate. Modern Orthodox Fleur from Baka, mother of Joshua, four, and Moriah, two, will be outfitting her children as characters from Star Wars this year, as every year, because her husband is a Star Wars buff "and he takes care of the costumes." Purim is the ultimate vindication of the restrictions of Orthodox Judaism, says Tamar, 18, from Ramot, who will be handing out her mishloah manot dressed as a punk. "As light-hearted as Purim may appear, with all its partying and drinking, its celebration is taken most seriously among the more religious. It is holier even than Yom Kippur."

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