Purim party, Tel Aviv style

God only knows what connection zombies have with the Jewish people’s vindication back in Persia.

Cartoon 521 (photo credit: Deborah Danan)
Cartoon 521
(photo credit: Deborah Danan)
This Purim was the first one I kept only in Tel Aviv, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Purim is usually the one festival that I prefer back in my home country – perhaps because it has all the standard merrymaking without the sleazier aspects. Why, oh why, do so many men feel the need to explore their feminine sides by dressing up as women? Or for that matter, when I’m walking the street on Purim, why must I be accosted by so many people dressed up as – ahem – streetwalkers? Perhaps these revelers are very stringent when it comes to the concept of venahafoch hu – turning everything upside-down – but somehow I doubt it.
But maybe the best part of Purim is the time leading up to it. A week ago Tuesday, every shop on King George Street was jam-packed with people buying last-minute additions to their costumes – false eyelashes for the ladies and false teeth for the lads. There were a whole bunch of festive parades in honor of the holiday, possibly the best being the Zombie Walk on Tuesday night. Hundreds of young Tel Avivians bedecked in ripped, blood-dripping clothes and macabre makeup marched – or rather, lurched – through the streets around Dizengoff and Ben- Zion. God only knows what connection zombies have with the Jewish people’s vindication back in Persia. Perhaps it’s our way of saying to the evil Haman, “Despite your best laid plans, dude, 2,500 years later we Jews are still undead.”
Anyway, I’m hardly one to talk. I myself eventually succumbed to the only affordable option of investing in a NIS 10 devil’s pitchfork – hardly the most Jewish accessory. I teamed it up with a red wig, but went the full nahafoch hu hog by also wearing a pair of white angel’s wings and halo. An angel with an identity crisis. Or a devil with an identity crisis, depending on whether you’re a cup-half-full or cup-half-empty type of person. Or, as one passerby who saw me succinctly put it, “You’re just like every other girl in this city. Confused and confusing.”
So what makes partying on Purim any different from partying any other day in Tel Aviv? Well, even though it is the party capital, the Purim cheer lends a whole new dimension, and Tel Avivians seem to connect on a different level. On any other day, however drunk partygoers are on the street, I guarantee you that if you start singing, “Hava narisha,” ain’t no one going to be joining in. But on Purim, Tel Avivians get turned on their heads, and pretty soon you have a full chorus of people screaming, “Rash! Rash! Rash!” in unison.
Even the “Na-nahmanites” manage to fulfill their dance quota on Purim. I passed by one of their infamous party vans on the corner of Rothschild Boulevard, but instead of the usual bunch of five or six Breslovers dancing on the roof, hundreds of Tel Avivians from all walks of life were pulsating to the trance beat of the Breslov classic “Uman Uman Rosh Hashana.”
PURIM DAY was a blur of dancing, drinking and deals with the devil. I was sitting on the roof of Aish HaTorah Tel Aviv at a lavish spread they had put out for Purim, talking to an inebriated ostrich. At some point, the ostrich mentioned that he had two olam habas (worlds to come) and asked if I was in the market to buy one off him. Apparently Ostrich-man had matched up six couples, all of whom had gotten married. According to Jewish tradition, if you make three successful shidduchim (matches), you merit a place in the World to Come. So this guy had a spare ticket to that world and was looking to flog it to the highest bidder.
Acting solely on my devilish side and leaving the angel on the sidelines, I decided to take full advantage of his dipsomania and strike up the best deal possible: $100,000 later – made payable in five million credit-free
payments – I’m now the proud owner of an exclusive one-time pass into the World to Come. It also comes with a lifetime guarantee, whatever that means. According to the ostrich (who happens to be a lawyer when he’s not got his head in the sand), my new acquisition gives me the liberty to do whatever I choose, whenever I choose, without worrying about the consequences. I barely let him finish telling me that clause before I was flying out of there, trident in hand, wondering just how decadent I could get.
Not very, apparently. I ended up at a Purim meal hosted by a friend, singing The Cranberries at the top of my lungs while someone else strummed the guitar. Scandalous stuff. I vaguely thought about traveling to the capital to celebrate Jerusalem’s Purim, which always falls a day later. But the thought of Beitar fans in fancy dress being more intoxicated than usual quickly made me dismiss that idea. Purim in Jerusalem is always a bit of a hit-and-miss, and even though I usually end up enjoying myself in one of the many street parties around Nahlaot and the shuk area, being able to walk the two minutes home in case I get (a) very bored, or (b) very drunk is a luxury I no longer have.
So I stuck it out in Tel Aviv and rode the bus home. While the bus driver wasn’t in fancy dress (something I had encountered numerous times in past years in Jerusalem), many of the passengers were. And there’s nothing more surreal than seeing someone in full costume riding a bus. The sight of a clown staring glumly at his iPhone is a jarring one. My oversized angel’s wings caught on the spear of a passing gladiator, and the elastic snapped. I folded them onto my lap and mused about the poesy of owning broken wings. If any message was to be extrapolated from my situation, it was that my devilish side had emerged victorious from my internal battle between good and evil. Either that, or I shouldn’t trust cheap, last-minute Purim costumes from King George Street.
BECAUSE PURIM fell on a Wednesday night this year, many of the bigger parties were pushed to Thursday night to coincide with the weekend. It amazed me how many people weren’t aware that it was no longer actually Purim, but I guess as they say, siba lemesiba (any excuse to party). Some friends of mine had bought tickets for a party in the Port, so later in the night I made my way there. Flanked by Xena Warrior Princess, Alex from A Clockwork Orange, and Moses and his fellow prophet pal Muhammad, I inched my way up the security line. I laughed as I watched the woman – man? – in front of me, dressed in full burka and nikab, undergo a particularly thorough security check. As if. The Islamist is probably the last person to pose a security threat – they’d be much better off checking to see if the cowboys’ guns were real.
We finally gained entry into a hangar-sized room full of adult-sized kids bopping to a remix of “Hag Yafeh Leyeladim” (A Nice Holiday for Children). A few drinks later, and my initial hesitations yielded to the reckless abandon of dancing the hora. By the end of the night, I suppose I’d fulfilled the mitzva of “ad d’lo yada” because I couldn’t tell the difference between Xena and Moses.