Mea She'arim opens 100 gates for Purim

Grown men shed the restrictions of adulthood and the neighborhood cuts loose.

kids 88 purim (photo credit: )
kids 88 purim
(photo credit: )
On Monday afternoon, the calls to prayer of the muezzin were completely drowned out by the voices of the "Jew-ezzin" in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim haredi neighborhood, calling the faithful to various megila readings, and directing others to Purim parties. The atmosphere in the streets and in the synagogues compared to the boisterousness and rowdiness typical of a Dublin pub on St. Patrick's Day, but with the kind of joy usually reserved for a family celebration. For one day a year, grown men shed the restrictions of adulthood and the neighborhood cuts loose. The usual monotonous sea of black at Kikar Shabbat is permeated by bright colors. The haredi uniform sports reds and blues, purples and pinks, an annual demonstration of creativity. The big brown shtreimels from Eastern Europe is traded in for a red Turkish Fez from the Middle East, and the men are off to the yeshiva for hours and hours of dancing, singing and the kind of drinking that could put a sailor to shame. While Mea She'arim's unembroidered interpretation of the Talmud's well-known adage, "A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he can no longer distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai" is the main attraction for outsiders during the holiday, there is a lot more to the haredi Purim experience then total intoxication. For instance, Mea She'arim is not a place where someone dressed in jeans and a sweater can casually walk in and be warmly welcomed. Purim is an annual opportunity to walk its narrow streets and not be made to feel as an intruder. "I don't like to come to this neighborhood, it's not for me," a soldier guarding Rehov Malchei Yisrael said, "but today it's different. The hassidim usually don't talk to me, but today maybe three or four fathers brought their kids dressed as soldiers over to us to take a picture." "No one likes to have to keep order among people who have been drinking, but it's not so bad when you get to see all this around you," another soldier said. Many Jewish holidays can be summarized as "Our enemies tried to kill us, we persevered, so now we eat." Although that is the jist of the holiday, Purim carries a far more special meaning, especially in the haredi community. Even though it is hard to look past the all-encompassing drunkenness, which trickles down to boys as young as 10, Purim is a very special day. Some locals told a group of secular Jews watching the dancing at a yeshiva that "Purim is the only day of the year where you can hold your hands out to God, and he cannot refuse whatever it is that you ask of him." Before the onlookers could draw any parallels to Don Corleone on his daughter's wedding day, they were rushed down the stairs for a mad search for a pair of teffilin and a fresh bottle of vodka, so that another Purim mitzva could be shared.