23 March 2008

The Whole Megillah

Purim in Jerusalem is special, and I know that. Going into Purim Meshulash (three days of purim), I was prepared for three days of parties, and three days of Purim celebration stretched from Thursday night until Sunday. Unfortunately, I had a very negative end to Purim, but I'll try to be happy about the good parts before I get to the bad ending.

Purim is a post-biblical holiday, which means that it is not in the Torah, like Chanukah. Therefore, Purim is not a holiday that you have to observe like Shabbat, and as a result, I am posting MANY pictures. Other important facts: Jews are commanded to observe and commemorate Purim in the following ways: hearing the megillah of Esther read twice, wearing costumes, drinking until you can't tell good guy from bad guy (or, go to sleep and therefore you can't tell the difference, my preferred method), give gifts to friends and the poor, and have a festive meal. Purim Meshulash happens when Purim would be on Shabbat, and since you can't give money / gifts to the poor, Purim gets pushed back and forth, leading to the three-day celebration.

Purim started on Thursday for me. I left school after another (I think) successful Hebrew test (I've been getting A's every week, not to brag, just to track progress), I met Rafi in the Old City. We had plenty of work to do in a short amount of time, as we grabbed an "eat to bite" (Terminal joke), two Coca-Cola shirts in Hebrew (mine Diet/grey, his regular/red), and a pair of fezzes. Our costumes read and in order, Rafi and I went to a jewelery store to order my birthday present (finally), a ring with something written on it. Feel free not to read into that, as this ring is going on my middle finger. I can't wait to show it off, flippantly. (Get it?)

Anyway, our costumes in order and my ring ordered, we went back to Emek, and took an hour to get our costumes into order before the megillah reading. Rafi and I decided to save our costumes until the Sunday seudah / festive meal at his school, so he dressed up like "a really cool guy" which just meant that he had an excuse to wear my sunglasses. I wore the castanets and jangly scarf I'd purchased for Purim when I was in Egypt in October. I decided, as I got dressed, that the rest of my outfit seemed to be subpar in comparison to the jangly scarf. The bikini-of-scarves was born. Below, please enjoy the finished result.

My belly-dancing costume from Thursday night's megillah reading.

After the megillah reading, Rafi and I went to the HaDag NaChash concert, which I wrote about in this blob's previous post. Here's a picture of us at the concert. I toned down my belly dancer costume and just kept the shirt, while I changed the skirt, the shoes and kept the scarf.

I lost most of the belly-dancing costume, put on my grey-yom-miniskirt, and left the jangly scarf on over the skirt.

Friday came too soon, as I woke up for what I thought was a 9AM megillah reading at Pardes. I was going to support Lisa, my latest in roomates, but when I went downstairs to wake her up, she informed me that the reading was at 11. Seeing as how I was already dressed (in my Aleph-Bet t-shirt, because I didn't want to deal with a costume), I decided to start cooking Shabbat dinner. After cooking Yemenite green beans (or my best imitation thereof), and sauteeing onions and garlic in wine with some mustard (yes, I hate mustard, but I like it in sauces), I cut up 10219201 onions, carrots and garlic, and set two pans with schnitzel-grade chicken (I love that I can get that here, at any butcher counter, and it's going to be KOSHER), covered it with white wine, and set it to marinate as I joined Lisa at her reading. She was beautiful and it was great, but I rushed back right after so that I could cook for my 10 dinner guests. I got pretty much everything done, and it was good, because Lisa wasn't feeling well, and I had to help her cook for her 11 lunch guests for Saturday.

We were cooking down to the wire, and I went to shul with wet hair. Shul was nice, as was dinner. It was nice to have people other than the usual suspects at a dinner, and the boys from Gainesville complemented the girls from South Florida, the Oleh, the Sabra husband and the Sabra boyfriend, rounded out by a Canadian and a surprise appearance by Lisa, who was starting to feel better!

Saturday, I slept until right before lunch, and lunch was nice. There was a great group of people from all over. The food turned out really well, and after the meal was over I got to finish Someone to Run With by David Grossman. It was terrific. Read it. A nap later, Shabbat was over and I was off to eat with Rafi at a great Italian place in the center of town. Eschewing the myriad Purim parties at every bar and restaurant in town, I came back to do some homework, and then I was off to sleep, in order to prepare for the big day ahead.

Rafi and I went to Schechter (his school) bright and early so that we could attend Shacharit / morning prayers. There was talk of me trying out his tefillin (phylacteries) for the first time, since it was Purim and I otherwise refuse to wear them. After the prayer where you can pass your tefillin on to someone who hasn't worn them yet, he leaned over and asked me if I wanted to put them on. I decided to say no. Mainly because his head is large, and filled with Torah, and since my head is small and filled with rumors from gossip blogs, I figured his tefillin wouldn't fit. Also, I just don't wear tefillin. Besides, Rebecca and Eytan arrived with their twin girls, dressed in peapod costumes, and I was more interested in holding one of the girls than messing around with leather straps on my arm and head.

After services, the room was set up for the shpiel, which was a series of skits, meant to be totally zany. This was lots of fun for the Schechter students, and less fun for me, as I don't go there. Since I'm dating Rafi, though, I got most of the jokes...even the ones about gemara / talmud, aka arguments by rabbis. The best part, for me, was my friend Sarah's Eulogy for Sunday, a joke about the Pillsbury Doughboy dying from a yeast infection (courtesy of huge scholar David Golinkin), and eating really fabulous Yemenite meat food for "lunch" at 11 in the morning. I also loved the costumes. Rafi and I debuted as Coke and Diet Coke, and you can see below other costumes and pictures from the festivities.

Rafi holds a HammerHoff girl -- one of the two peas formerly in Rebecca's Pod.
Lovely, lovely little pea.
Coke, Diet Coke, complete with bottle cap hats and a HammerHoff girl (Rena?) after the peapod costume got too hot.

Dena and Dan as Mikveh / Ritual Bath Lifeguards.
Deb dressed as Rafi's roommate, complete with boxers sticking out of the pants, beautiful curly hair, a Yankees hat, rippling muscles and an huge need for attention.
Noam, Rafi's terrific roommate, getting that attention he so desperately craves, whilst running the show.
(Hair is a fro wig, hiding what is a much more beautiful collection of curls underneath. I love Noam!)

Cece as an Israeli soldier, enjoying her locker-door picture.
Coke and Diet Coke. Hot.
The Great Gemara Race.
Rafi started reciting Robert Frost and Cece poured water on his head.

Rafi and I connect with our inspiration.
In an ideal world, I would not be holding Lemon Diet Coke, but you take what you can get.

After Schechter, Rafi and I made our way to HarNof to our second seudah of the day, with my cousins! It was really nice, there was so much food that I can't even begin to describe it, and the company was lovely. After the company left, Rafi and I hung around a little while longer, so that we could help the cousins by relieving them of mishloach manot gifts of food given to them by friends and neighbors. We were doing them a favor, as they are on a strict, healthy diet -- they are both slim and looking fabulous, so Rafi and I helped them in their quest to be healthy by taking cookies, crackers, cakes, chocolate milk, and tons of chocolate (no, I am not making this up) home with us. I also talked to my Bubbe in Florida, and she is hilarious and upbeat as usual.

This is where the fun of Purim came to an abrupt halt. Gloria, one of my glorious cousins, had warned me that people take that "drink until you can't tell the difference" thing very seriously in her 'hood. They also shoot cap guns, light off fireworks, sing and dance in the streets, and elementary school kids light up cigarettes for what I can only pray is the first and last time ever. I witnessed this all, today, on the street today in HarNof. In fact, that is one of the reasons my cousins hosted the seudah, as they didn't want to leave their house. So when Rafi and I couldn't get a taxi, we simply hopped on the first bus that we knew ran to Yaffo, making it a simple switch to an Emek bus. This bus was filled with revelers and was 99% ultra-Orthodox. Rafi and I stuck out like red, sore thumbs, and found seats at the back of the bus.

After a while, the bus driver, for some stupid reason, let on a guy who was so drunk he was INCAPABLE OF SCRATCHING HIS OWN FACE. This guy stumbled to the back of the bus, and collapsed into a seat across from a mother of 10 (Yes, 10. They were all over the rows around us.). The mother and her children giggled at the guy, as he waved around the air surrounding his face, attempting to scratch his clearly senseless nose, while I wondered what the hell was wrong with EVERYBODY on this bus. Clearly, that guy needed to be sitting on a bench somewhere, or on his way to an ER for a nice stomach pumping and a fresh banana bag.

Not too much time passed before the two bottles of wine that had incapacitated this Hasid-turned-Hoover-Dam-Leak made a repeat appearance, all over the floor of the bus. The mother continued to giggle, and shoved her kids who were sitting with her over the back of the seat to her other kids that were closer to the front of the bus. I turned into a shaking pile of goo, as my fear of food-related repeat experiences reared its ugly head and trapped me in the back corner of a bus filled with streimels. Eventually, the bus turned off of its usual path, making everybody get off somewhere in the middle of a neighborhood where my red Crocs identify me as a whore, a neighborhood where the guy who put his tallis bag nearly on my head during my flight to Israel totally must live. Before this happened, of course, I had to climb over about 5 rows of seats, so as to avoid walking in...well, you know. Sadly, this acrobatic maneuvering was difficult on a moving bus, as I not only hit my head on a pole, but my beautiful fez-turned-bottle cap fell onto the floor. The floor that I was walking on SEATS to avoid. Rest in peace, vomit hat.
I did a pretty nice job on these fez-turned-bottlecaps (Mine of blessed memory is pictured. Rafi's was regular, mine said "Diet."), if I do say so myself.
I even copied the "Diet" logo from the bottle. I'm very sad about the loss of my fez.

Rafi, by the way, managed this maneuver the seat-climbing with grace, dignity and aplomb. He is very, very impressive and I love him.

Everybody got off the bus, and the driver drove away, with that drunk idiot passed out in the back section, even though everybody else got off the bus. If I were the driver, I would've called the police to get this guy off of my bus, and to get his name, rank and serial number so as to pay for the extensive bleach-cleaning that was now necessary on this particular vehicle.

After struggling to get a taxi, as we were lost in streimel-land, Rafi and I finally ended up with a cabbie whose dad is the cantor at the small shul two buildings over from Rafi's apartment. The cab driver was nice, but I was fighting off stress-related tears and headaches, and I was only partly able to enjoy myself with the cabbie. (FYI -- I generally love cabbies here, as they help my Hebrew, tell me exactly how to bring peace to the Middle East, invite me to their synagogues, and, my personal favorite, try to understand my religious affiliation by asking whether or not I am shomer negiah / no touching with my boyfriend.)

In conclusion, Purim was mostly awesome with a really horrible ending. I had nothing to drink the whole time, except for a little Shabbat wine. Most everybody else in Jerusalem threw up, either on buses or in more acceptable places, like your friendly neighborhood toilet. I think they should all take a healthy dose of Rambam, and not drunk dial me in the morning.

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