It’s been a long time coming. Like the rest of us around the country, Jerusalemites have endured three lockdowns, and strict constraints on how to go about keeping their pecker up. But, it appears, there is hope of better, more colorful and joyful things to come, right on the horizon.
The advent of Purim offers a perfect opportunity to shake off some of those pandemic blues and get in some high jinks, albeit somewhat restrained and constricted by ongoing Purple Badge guidelines. The municipality has put together a wide-ranging spread of events, over the festive weekend, with the entertaining and fun rollout scheduled to run through to Sunday right across town.
The bonhomie-inducing agenda is being overseen by Ariela Rejwan, executive director of the Culture and Sport Community Enrichment Program at the municipality. After such a protracted hiatus the authorities could be forgiven for coming out with all spiritual uplifting guns blazing. Rejwan says that she would like nothing better, and that is the general guiding mind-set behind the program but, with the best will in the world, she notes that circumstances do not allow for an all-out blast. “We are getting back to the routine,” she exclaims, with undisguised glee. “We are so appreciative of this. We are so happy, but we are still as cautious as we can be. We are following the Purple Badge guidelines.”
It is, says Rejwan, high time we all returned to the great outdoors, and into auditoria, for a healthy helping of some artistic fare. “We are thrilled about this, about resuming cultural activities. Mind you, people have been enjoying cultural stuff at home all this time. But we are not taking anything for granted.”
That may be the case, but Rejwan and her colleagues have done their best to offer the public a broad sweep of quality and fun events, sights and sounds to help us all, hopefully, move in a more positive, healthier-minded direction.
The Purim program, naturally, takes in an abundance of indoor activities but there will be plenty going on al fresco too. If you are out and about after dark you could do worse than take a trip around town to see the illuminations arranged on, and around, a bunch of prominent buildings and structures across the city. The Follow the Lights itinerary features 22 standout locations, with a slew of eye-catching designs tailored to give passersby something brighter to glimpse, and add a little joy and color to their lives as they move around the city.
The bright and breezy creations will be evident to out-of-towners from the off, as they arrive from the Tel Aviv direction of Route 1, with the Chords Bridge providing incomers with an exciting polychromic intro to Jerusalem. Other festive spots include the Supreme Court bridge, the Knesset, the Israel Museum, David’s Tower, the YMCA building, the Khan Theater and the First Station. The principal driving force behind Follow the Lights is the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage.
“The ministry has done a great job,” Rejwan states. “They have devised 22 crazy lighting installations, with video screenings and laser-based shows.” And all from the comfort of your very own four wheels. “You can drive around town and just choose where you want to go. You can, for example, press the Israel Museum (on the followthelights.org.il web site) and get information about the museum and the contents inside.”
The museum is certainly one of the star attractions of that particular item on the municipal Purim roster. “It is a sort of a drive-in show,” Rejwan explains. Visitors will be able to park in the parking lot and enjoy screenings of a range of works of art, on the exterior of the museum building as part of the Art in Motion extravaganza. And, in case you find yourself getting a little peckish, there are around 30 local eateries lined up to provide delivery services of vittles that cater for all tastes and dietary needs. That, of course, will also help to shore up the businesses’ sagging pandemic-hit revenue.
Rejwan notes that Mayor Moshe Lion is right behind her and her colleagues, in trying to get the cultural and good cheer show back on the road. “He is always challenging us to be as creative as we can, and he is constantly pushing us to get back to normal. But we do need to be really creative, while considering everything we want to do, to make sure we keep everyone safe and healthy.”
Lion echoes that measured merry-making ethos. “We have produced these very special events for you, to make the holiday joyful and, primarily, healthy in keeping with the Ministry of Health guidelines,” he states. “I invite all the city’s residents and visitors to enjoy everything Jerusalem has to offer, and call on all of you [to] get out and celebrate, but adhere to the rules.”
Of course, getting dressed up has always been an integral part of the Purim fun and there will be plenty of hands-on costume tailoring enterprise in full flow over the weekend, both of a structural and personal nature. The Puriphletzet – a playful hybrid of “Purim” and “mifletzet,” the Hebrew word for monster – section of the program feeds off the popular reality TV show Zamar Bemasecha, Masked Singer, and harnesses the inventiveness of the show’s designer Adi Hanna. Hanna has been busy producing spectacular polychromic getups that will adorn a number of major edifices around Jerusalem, and get the public to do a double take on buildings which they would probably just mosey on by without giving them a second glance.
Hanna’s architectural fancy dress makeover input includes a slot at the holiday program’s home base, Building 10 of the municipality’s Safra Square campus, the President’s Residence, the windmill at Yemin Moshe and the Hamifletzet (Monster) leviathan playground triangular slide facility in Kiryat Hayovel. All the aforementioned festooned structures will, of course, be available to the viewing public free of charge.
THERE IS also currently plenty of individual artistic endeavor around, with residents proffering the fruits of their creative nous with pictures and video clips of their very own fancy dress getups posted on the municipality’s Facebook pages. The Purim Factory contest, which is running in collaboration with the Train Theater, closes at midnight on Sunday after which the members of a municipal committee will run their practiced eyes over the entries and award prizes to the top-rated costumes.
While most of us appreciate the wonders that communication technology has to offer, Zoom and Whatsapp video “encounters” are getting more than a little tiresome. All of which makes the prospect of street performer entertainment even more welcome. The neighborhood festive events feature circus acts, with clowns, jugglers and stilt walkers among the mirth-generating spectacles to be espied around town, and also downtown, in main squares and at commercial centers.
Rejwan says that the municipality is keen to regenerate life on a local, human level and not just at the showcase spots. Anyone born here, with kids who have grown up here, or who came on aliyah as youngsters themselves may be familiar with the Giant and Dwarf kids’ game whereby gifts are exchanged incognito. Rejwan says that forms part of the municipal festive arsenal aimed at getting locals reengaged in street-level interpersonal discourse. “That will get people communicating with each other, and the residents of different buildings will actually encounter each other. That has been missing for too long.” She could say that again.
Rejwan expresses a sense of pride in the Purim-timed shot-in-the-arm drive in these parts. “Jerusalem is a very community-oriented city. There is a population of one million, and 32 community administrations. There is nowhere else like that in the country. Jerusalem is a city that feeds off the community spirit. That is a major feature here, and I invite people from all over Israel to come here to see how to manage [social] things differently.”
But it is not just about having fun, and instilling a cause for optimism. As is generally the case, it is the less fortunate among us who have suffered the most from the pandemic state of affairs, and Rejwan says disadvantaged locals were very much a part of the municipality’s thinking behind the holiday agenda, particularly in the context of an age-old custom of dispensing and exchanging decorative food packages. “We will be giving out 50,000 mishlochei manot. We sent the word out via synagogue gabaim (managers). That was the most efficient way of getting to people. And we are handing out mishlochei manot to homeless people, and others who need support.”
And if it’s a good belly laugh or two you’re looking for, and you are conversant with Hebrew, the Kriyat Megilla (Reading the Megilla) slot should serve to tickle several funny bones. The name of the stand-up comedy lineup, which will be broadcast on the municipality website on Sunday at 8:30 p.m., infers the traditional recital of the Book of Esther, but is intentionally “misspelt” so that “kriyat” means tearing up, or side splitting, rather than reading.
The comedian roster features a host of A-lister jokers just waiting to get us giggling, if not laughing out loud, including Jackie Levy, Revital Vitelzon Jacobs, Odea Koren and Kobi Arieli, with the Another Interest band adding some delightful musical fare to the proceedings. Considering the social backdrop to the humor marathon one could expect a raft of dark humor to filter through the stand-up turns. “Yes, there’s a lot of that,” Arieli admits, a day after he and his fellow jokesters recorded their contributions to the holiday shenanigans. “We all quickly get onto the coronavirus theme.”
The old Reader’s Digest “laughter is the best medicine” philosophy sits well with the 48-year-old Rehavia resident. He says it is high time we all started getting back to a more light-hearted approach to our lives. “Comedy is about survival. That is its raison d’être. We couldn’t have gotten through the pandemic without it. I don’t think there was enough humor around, on TV or out on the street.”
A risible aside or two, says Arieli, could have offset some of the growing anxiety that has permeated our existence over the past year or so. “There was too much information and too little humor given out.” The comic says he knows where that lamentable state of affairs comes from. “I think that comes from people’s addiction to current affairs and news, which is totally sick. From 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. you get hard core current affairs. That’s crazy! What do we need that for?”
It’s safe to say that Arieli et al will do their best to redress the laughter imbalance in the stand-up comedy marathon. And let’s hope for more where that and the rest of the municipal festive offerings are coming from.
For more information: www.jerusalem.muni.il/en/events-and-culture/allevents/purim-2021/