A playful Purim

The organizers of the Holon Adloyada promise that this year’s parade – its 21st – will be even more than its 20th-anniversary celebration.

Planning for the Adloyada begins in Holon (photo credit: Eli Ne’eman)
Planning for the Adloyada begins in Holon
(photo credit: Eli Ne’eman)
From its austere beginnings in the first half of the 20th century, Holon has burgeoned into a vibrant center for culture and the arts. The city once known as “the sands of the south” is today host to an internationally acclaimed design museum – the only design museum in the Middle East – as well as a school of design; a children’s museum; an interactive science museum; a center for digital arts; a cartoon museum, one of only a handful in the entire world; a history museum; several important art galleries; and a puppet center – yes, a puppet center – consisting of a museum, a puppetry school, and an annual international puppet festival.
Holon is also the home of the country’s largest Purim parade, an annual event that started small and has since evolved into a loud, colorful and ever-growing extravaganza known as the “Adloyada.”
As Rio has its Carnival, New Orleans its Mardi Gras, and Ecuador its Fiesta de las Flores y las Frutas, Israel has this Purim celebration, which began 101 years ago in Tel Aviv. It started when Avraham Aldema, an actor and art teacher at Tel Aviv’s Herzliya Gymnasium high school, decided that the fledgling Jewish city deserved something novel and festive for Purim.
“At first we called it simply a procession,” he wrote in his diary. “I put all the Herzliya [school] students in threes, and at the head of the parade there was a student dressed as Mordecai, riding a white horse. Another student who was dressed as Haman led the horse. There were also other characters: Esther dressed in luxurious clothes, the fat Ahasuerus, and other figures from the Book of Esther.”
Of course, since Tel Aviv had been established on sand dunes only three years before, there wasn’t much of a route for the parade to follow. There was, in fact, only one main street at the time, and the parade route was therefore no more than 350 meters long, from the yard of the Herzliya school down to the end of Herzl Street.
Nonetheless, hundreds of children marched in colorful costumes, an orchestra played, rudimentary floats of giant dolls rolled down Herzl Street, and Tel Aviv residents came in droves to see the little parade.
Tel Aviv mayor Meir Dizengoff declared the event a success, insisted that Aldema repeat it the following year, and promised to come up with a budget to make it bigger and better. A tradition was born.
As the years passed, the parades, which Dizengoff led on horseback, became more spectacular. By the 1930s, each new parade was organized around a central theme, and the event acquired its name when the city held a naming competition in 1932. City officials were deluged with hundreds of entries, including some from several of Israel’s most prominent literati. Shaul Tchernichowsky suggested calling it the “Estorat,” Haim Nahman Bialik proposed the name “Pura,” and Avraham Shlonsky floated the name “Tzahalola,” from “tzahal” – celebration. Lesser lights came up with such suggestions as “Purimon,” “Tel Avivon,” “Hinga Por,” and “Tahaluhon.”
Celebrated writer Isaac Dov Berkowitz triumphed over these and more than 300 other submissions by recommending the word “Adloyada,” from the talmudic injunction to drink wine during Purim ad d’lo yada – until one no longer knows the difference between the statements “Blessed be Mordecai” and “Cursed be Haman.” The Adloyada had come of age, earning enough notoriety to attract the attention of foreign visitors and journalists.
It all soon came to a halt, however. With the persecution of Jews in Germany, World War II, the Holocaust, the postwar struggle for independence, and the subsequent challenges of building a new nation, the people of Tel Aviv had more pressing things on their minds. The Adloyada was suspended in the late 1930s and lay dormant for so long that it become little more than a fond, distant memory – until its revival in 1992, in Holon.
WHILE OTHER cities throughout the country also hold annual Adloyadas, Holon’s celebration – now in its 21st year – is generally considered the country’s premier Purim event. Although many people wonder whether it will be possible to outdo last year’s parade, which marked both the 100th birthday of the Adloyada and 20 years of its staging in Holon, organizers of this year’s event say that Holon Adloyada 2013 will be bigger and better.
“You’re going to see a huge Adloyada, with 10 huge floats and five big moving exhibits,” says Eran Fisher, art director of the overall show. “Each of these floats is like a moving stage production, with actors and scenery. What with the 10 floats and five exhibits, we’re talking about a total of around 5,000 young participants – 2,500 from Holon, and 2,500 outside Holon, like professional dancing groups and people from the Nickelodeon TV channel. We will have professional dancing groups from all over the country, from north to south, from Kiryat Shmona to Beersheba. They come to Holon because they understand that this is the biggest adloyada in all of Israel.
It’s a huge festival, and each year it gets bigger.”
The theme of this year’s event, which will take place at noon on Sunday, February 24, is “A Symphony of Toys.” Accordingly guests can expect to see such rolling spectacles as a giant moving concertina with dancers and musicians; a toy locomotive festooned with 20,000 flowers; a “Bimba ride-on car” with a huge carousel; an immense “Angry Bird” with toys flying out of it; a float displaying the story of Pinocchio, with giant figures of him and Geppetto, along with 10 puppeteers performing puppet theater; and an immense chess game with pieces inspired by the recent election: MKs Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, Aryeh Deri, Avigdor Liberman, Naftali Bennett and Amir Peretz, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich as the king and queen.
Moving among the giant floats will be acrobats, dancers, roller-skaters, performance artists, marching bands and purveyors of special effects and pyrotechnics.
But the floats are key, and the responsibility for conceiving, planning, building and designing them rests on the shoulders of Tzipi Yifat, the country’s leading expert in carnival design.
“I have been doing the Adloyada in Holon already for 21 years. From the beginning, from the first one,” she says.
How does one become an expert in carnival design? For Yifat – born, raised and still residing on a moshav near Kfar Saba – it all began with marriage to an Israeli who was studying in Italy. Having previously studied architecture, she decided to study theater stage design – what she likes to call “the architecture of the stage” – at Accademia dell’Arte, one of Italy’s most prestigious art schools.
“I liked that very much, and when I came back to Israel, I began to focus on art that moves,” she says, laughing. “This is now my specialty.”
Planning for the Adloyada normally begins the day after the previous one, when Holon’s Adloyada committee meets to decide on the theme for the next year’s event.
For Yifat, the work begins at the beginning of August, when she begins to plan the design of the floats.
“This is the hardest part of the work. I begin in August and devote three entire months to brainstorm and deal with ideas. I have to take the subject and then see how it can go in the parade, how it will look as it moves. It’s not enough to design the scene and the giant dolls. I have to think how they will look moving, how they will appear at every angle, how children will see them, how adults will see them. And on top of that, every year I must find new things to do.”
She gets inspiration for some of those new things through her annual visits to carnivals in places like Rio de Janeiro, Venice and Viareggio. She tries to go to as many carnivals as she can, she says, and sometimes brings tourist groups along with her.
Is the Holon Adloyada as good as those carnivals overseas? “Ah, this is a big question,” she says. “Our problem here is limitations on height. Because of the streets of Holon, I can’t do anything more than 4 m. or 4.5 m.
in height – 5, maximum. When I go to Italy, their displays are often 20 m. high. In our streets, there are the electric wires and many other things they have to pass through. Only one city in Israel, Ashdod, allows you more height. Aside from the height problem, there’s the problem of money. This costs a lot of money. In other countries, it costs much more than what we are doing. But I think we have a very nice parade here in Holon.”
And if there is anything the country does not have to worry about in the foreseeable future, it is the Holon Adloyada without Yifat. She does this, she says, because it is inside her, a big part of her, and she has no desire to stop. And even if, someday, she ever decides to retire, the show will no doubt go on: The city’s Israeli Puppet Center runs a two-year course in carnival art, training people to design and build the giant floats and puppets that have made the Adloyada what it is today.