Purim 2015 reflects political struggles in Israel

Temple Mount activists to mark holiday by attempting to pray at hotly contested holy site.

YOUNGSTERS BROWSE at a costume shop on the capital’s Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
YOUNGSTERS BROWSE at a costume shop on the capital’s Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
 This year’s Purim falls against a background of no little political drama, internationally and domestically.
The holiday, which celebrates the biblical story of Esther and the survival of the Jewish people during the Persian exile falls this year on Wednesday night and Thursday, except in Jerusalem where it takes place on Thursday night and Friday.
But while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is away in Washington battling Israel’s ancient Persian foe, various religious and political struggles back home continue apace.
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court’s landmark ruling on Sunday ostensibly allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount is to be celebrated by Temple Mount activists on Wednesday who will seek to visit the site and pray there.
“People should feel free to pray comfortably, individual prayer or more than individual prayer on the Mount... and we will wave the court’s ruling toward anyone who threatens you,” Students for the Temple Mount wrote on the group’s Facebook page.
“In the worst-case scenario you’ll be compensated with a great deal of money,” they quipped, in reference to the NIS 650,000 awarded to Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick in Sunday’s ruling for being unlawfully banned from the site for two years between 2011 and 2013.
And in a separate but similar struggle for religious rights, the Women of the Wall will conduct a megila reading of the Book of Esther at the Western Wall on Shushan Purim, the date for Purim inside ancient walled cities such as Jerusalem.
The group has held a megila reading at the Western Wall for numerous years and told those participating in this year’s event to come in costume, as is traditional for the holiday, and in a “humorous mood.”
Women of the Wall have been prevented from reading from a Torah scroll at the wall, although it managed to smuggle a small one in on two occasions. The group has never been stopped from bringing in a megila scroll, however.
Israel-Palestinian relations will be represented in Purim activities this year by a half-marathon through parts of the Etzion region in the southern West Bank on Friday.
The race will go through the settlement of Efrat, pass close to the security barrier, and go through the village of Abdallah Ibrahim, which has good relations with Efrat and its residents. The route will be dotted with entertainment stations involving clowns, jugglers and other performing artists.
The race has been coordinated with the village authorities as well as the Israeli security services and will be secured along the length of the marathon route.
The half-marathon received the blessing of the mukhtar of the village, and its residents were invited to participate, according to organizers, who are expecting some 3,000 people to turn out for the event who have registered so far.
There are also 10-km. and 5-km. routes for runners not able to tackle the 21-km.