Well, we've been here for Tisha B'Av, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succos, Chanukah, and now Purim. I always thought Succos was my favorite holiday, but I have to say - Purim in Israel is AWESOME! I love it here!!
David woke me up early on Shabbos morning because it was Parshas Zachor and I had to be in shul to hear the few passuks (lines in the Torah reading) about stamping out Amalek. For those who don't know, Amalek is one of the very many Jew haters in course of our very long history. He lives on in Hitler and all those throughout history who have tried to wipe us out. Haman, the bad guy in the Purim story, was a descendant of Amalek. By the way, in my "reform" upbringing, no one ever told us in our Sunday School classes that all those stories we read about were real; that the people and the events that happened were part of our very real history and not just fairy tales to entertain us. Here in Israel, the history of all those "characters" are all around you, and when you live here you feel part of the each succeeding generation who lived through each part of our history. It's just so awesome.
So I went to shul and saw lots of friends I haven't seen in awhile because I actually haven't been there in awhile (even though the shul is less than a block away). I even went to a shiur right after services (which end by 10:15 AM every week - see why I rarely make it there?) for women. While there, I saw Rebecca who gives a shiur on Shabbos afternoons. I hadn't gone last week, and she told me what time to come. So I went to TWO shiurim in one day! Plus I went to shul! David was very happy with me. I love to hear Rebecca speak. Only 4 of us came, but she researches all of her topics so thoroughly and is so excited about every thing she teaches. This week was, of course, about Purim, and Esther and Mordechai's role in saving the Jews from annihilation. There are just layers upon layers of meaning in every single sentence of the Megillah (the story of Purim we're required to hear twice on Purim). As we were leaving, Rebecca told me about the party she has for women every Purim night - starting at 11 PM. I thought, why not?
David and I went to maariv (the evening service) and to hear the Megillah reading. Purim is the festival where everyone dresses up in costume. The whole idea is to show that we are not who we look like externally. That's putting it extremely simplistically, and there are many other explanations. David dressed as Bob the Builder (jeans, hard hat, tool belt), and I wore my blue afro. I tried to figure out how to make it stand straight up in a Marge Simpson hairdo, but it wasn't made to go in just one direction. The Megillah reading was fun. In St. Louis I always went to a later, women's only reading, but I wanted to go to the first reading possible so we could go to a party and get our shalach manot ready at home. As the Megilla is being read, everyone has to be extremely quiet, even the kids, and we have to hear every single word - except when Haman's name is mentioned. Then everyone waves their groggers or stamp their feet or yell "boo!" or make whatever loud noise they can to stamp out his hated name. The reading took about an hour and then we stood outside and talked with people for quite awhile. A friend of ours, Tzvi, had on a monster face which scared some kids, but others were trying to pull it off of him. He was trying to convince them that it was scarier underneath! Another guy, Shimon, who had brought his guitar and was wearing long blond curls, threw his arms around Tzvi and said in as high a voice as he could muster, "No, he's mine! Leave him alone!" Everybody was in a happy mood and playing around.
We went home and by the time I finished cleaning up from Shabbos and filling the shalach manot bags, it was already 11! David hadn't wanted to go to any of the shul parties (most of them were having one), but I headed over to Rebecca's. I had so much fun there! About 15 women showed up; some I knew and some I didn't. It was like being at a slumber party when I was a teenager. Rebecca is probably one of the most learned (in Torah) women I've ever met, but she made some kind of a hot punch with vodka (gin?) in it, and everyone had a cup or two, and we giggled and played and just let go of our everyday lives. We each told about the most embarrassing thing that had ever happened to us (everything from bad blind dates to sheitels coming off in public), and then we put on some old rock music and danced. By the time they put on an old Beatles tape, we were singing "A Hrd Days' Night", "Help", and all the oldies at the top of our lungs and dancing like we used to in the old (read: secular) days. I barely had a voice left when I left at 1:30 in the morning! And I really missed a couple of you in St. Louis that I know would have had a blast at the party!
But I had to get up by 7 yesterday morning to get to shul for the second Megillah reading. It wasn't quite so crowded this time as most of the men had heard it already in shacharis (the morning service) and left. The guy who read it for us was phenomenal. He had a different voice for each time Esther or Ahashveros or Mordechai or Haman spoke, and even when he read about the horse that Haman had to lead Mordechai on, he had a special whinny voice for the horse. It was great! When I got home, we filled up our cart on wheels, mapped out our route, saddled up Emma (okay, we put her leash on) and headed out to deliver our shalach manot.
Who would ever have guessed it would be 80 degrees out?! We walked up the hill on Hayarden, cut through Sun Gardens, down to the end of Shimshon and back the other way to Dolev, and then ALL THE WAY AROUND Dolev and down Habesor to our apartment. It took about 2 hours and we were hot and pooped. But EVERYONE was out on the streets; the costumes showed so much creativity and everyone was friendly and talkative - you can't even imagine the sense of belonging, the sense of oneness. I so wish it could be like this between everyone in Eretz Yisrael every day. But we'll stay positive here. One young couple and their little toddler had Cat in the Hat costumes on and Thing #1 and Thing #2 imprinted on the front. After they passed us, we realized they had the same words imprinted on their backs - in Ivrit! There was a 10 foot high monster that Emma wasn't sure if she should bark at or run away from, and decorated cars with loudspeakers and music playing everywhere.
Our seuda (festive meal you're supposed to have) was waaayyy over on Lakish and we had to bring the soda and wine. Poor David had to pull the cart with 10 heavy bottles and 3 more packages we had to deliver. I tried to call a cab but none of the companies were answering the phone. So we finally showed up. It was supposed to be all adults, but apparently the host family had invited more people and there were 27 of us - and a lot of kids. They were afraid there wouldn't be enough food but there was plenty. No one was drinking, though. The men are supposed to drink enough not to be able to tell the difference between Mordechai (the good guy) and Haman (we already talked about him). The idea is "when the drink goes in, the truth comes out." There's all kind of kabbalistic stuff about the drinking; you'll have to ask your local rabbi. David never feels he can enjoy the holiday because he has to go to work the next day; I think he only had one glass of wine.
It was so tough walking home. My legs were sore and I was so exhausted from not much sleep the night before and all that walking we'd done. We were supposed to stop by another friend's house who had also invited us to their seuda, but we just went home. Everyone was setting off firecrackers and there were yeshiva boys and kids all over the streets. It was just so nice to be part of the whole thing.
Today is Shushan Purim. In a walled city, like Yerushalayim, Purim is celebrated today - the 15th of Adar (on the Jewish calendar) as oppposed to the 14th. A lot of people started celebrating yesterday and then went to Yerushalayim today to continue their celebration. I remember Nathan telling me about it when he was here in yeshiva. I've been more than happy to take it easy today! I've been cleaning, doing laundry, making dinner for David for when he comes home from work and before he goes to shul to learn, and taking Emma out now and then. Our friend Dov is coming by soon with his two kids. Emma will be very happy to see the kids. Dov is bringing me my headset and foot pedal so I can start working on my first legal transcript. I guess I'm ready! We really want to be able to make some extra money to be able to save up to buy an apartment in the next couple of years.
I had practically told David I'd move to Yerushalayim, but after the party at Rebecca's and celebrating Purim, I know that I really want to stay in Ramat Beit Shemesh! I really love it here so much. It was so nice to go to shul or sit in the shiur or go to the party - and actually recognize a lot of people! It just seems like we have a "place" here. But we still need to find a less expensive apartment, and with a yard.
Besides, listen to what I saw this morning: As I was walking Emma out in the park, Coco was out in her yard and started barking when she saw Emma, which of course made Emma run over to Coco's yard and start barking back. Shaina invited Emma to come play for an hour or so. When I went downstairs to get her later, I saw Shaina and her girls going out the front door of the building. I followed them out and when Shaina saw me, she pointed to to the corner where Hayarden and Hayarkon meet. On the hill were hundreds of sheep, literally just yards from the street! There were some Arab herders moving them across the hill further down on the hills by Hayarkon. It was so cool! I got Emma, then went home and got out my camera. We've heard them a lot recently and have seen them in the distance, but they've never been this close. A lot of people were looking out from their mirpesets. You don't find a lot of sheep in your back yard in St. Louis!
It's getting dark out; hopefully we're going to get some more rain. We need it.
Time to go; things to do.