A shot of religion in the Holy Land
Reasonably, I wanted to know why it’s a mitzvah (good deed or religious duty) to drink so much on Purim, but each of the roughly two-dozen people I asked had a different explanation. “On Purim, everything is upside down,” one said. “You can’t understand the level of joy of being saved if you are sober,” added another. “The alcohol and costumes help show you the truth of the spiritual world that lies underneath the physical world.”
My favourite, though, was the idea that “Israelis can’t handle their alcohol, so when we wake up with a hangover, we think about how we don’t want to drink again until next Purim.” Judging by the 6ft man dressed as a panda lying on the ground at my first Purim party; Mario hugging a tree for balance; and a half-dozen other familiar characters seeking similar fates, this theory seemed to have legs.
But I was enjoying the company of a couple hundred others on that Jerusalem rooftop, singing, dancing and rejoicing. I belted a medley from the musical Grease alongside Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsen, and took a shot of arak. I danced with Mrs Claus, Amelia Earhart and a sexily dressed nerd, and took another.
If it was what God wanted me to do, who was I to argue?
Meanwhile, on the streets below, tens of thousands of people in costume ate, drank and made mitzvahs. Fireworks went off throughout the night. People chanted and waved noisemakers. A giant pink bunny jumped onto the hood of a taxi shouting of “Purim Sameach” (Happy Purim!).
Friday morning, after the debauchery of last year's Purim died down, I also got to see the family-oriented side of the holiday. People were grooving on balconies, enjoying live music on the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall and slipping prayer notes into the Western Wall. Spider-Man and traditionally dressed Hasidic men prayed side by side. And then the sun went down and the Sabbath began.