Israel is a great place to be on the Jewish holiday of Purim, celebrated this year from sunset March 20 through sundown March 21 (March 21-22 in Jerusalem).
Marking the events described in the biblical book of Esther, in which Mordechai and his cousin Esther help the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire triumph over the murderous plot of evil court official Haman, Purim is primetime for parties, costumes and treats.
Here’s ISRAEL21c’s guide to a rockin’ Purim in Israel.
1. Party it up in the streets
The streets of Nachlaot in Jerusalem become one big party at Purim. Photo by Nati Shohat/ FLASH90
Purim in Israel is one big party, and lucky for you, you’re more likely to be spoiled for choice than left out in the springy “cold.”
But with all the street parties, parades, all-night club and bar parties, remember to take “ad lo yada” — the notion that people should drink until they don’t know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys in the Purim story — with a big grain of salt. In other words: Drink and party responsibly!
Clubs in major cities are sure to be packed wall to wall with special events, like Purim Land — a giant DJ-fueled Tel Aviv party held at a secret location — but so are the city streets with annual parades like this one in Tel Aviv and this legendary one in Holon, appropriately named “Ad Lo Yada.”
The theme of this year’s Holon festival is carnivals of the world, so expect all kinds of shenanigans like circus performers, dancers, roller-skaters, floats, and displays from around the world, and of course crowds dressed in full Purim costume.
And don’t even think of missing out on Purim in Jerusalem — the craziest day of the year in the holy city – celebrated the day after Purim elsewhere (this year Friday, March 22). Check out the annual street party in the Nachlaot neighborhood: thousands of people in wild costumes, stands from local businesses selling their goods, and DJs all along Nissim Bachar Street and Gezer Square.
Israelis enjoying a Purim parade in Netanya. Photo by FLASH90
2. Take your partying in a different direction
If wild street and club parties aren’t your cup of tea, keep your eyes peeled for special events in other venues, like these:
Tailormade99 cocktail bar’s whimsical Alice in Wonderland themed ticketed dinner service in Tel Aviv, curated by Chef Benny Azulay with a secret menu based on the classic tale. For tickets and info, click here.
A 1980s-themed bash in the upscale Whisky Bar and Museum at the edge of the trendy Sarona Market complex includes drinks (first one with your event ticket is free) and a portal back to the fun decade with DJ Amir Point. For tickets and info, click here.
Or try the ultimate 5-day Purim package at Abraham Hostels, which not only gets you into the hostel’s Purim party festivities happening in their Jerusalem and Tel Aviv locations (and shuttles you there), but also gains you access to their famous Tel Aviv pub crawl, takes you to and from the best street parties in Jerusalem, and ends with a relaxing trip to Masada and Ein Gedi to recover from the mayhem in an awe-inspiring backdrop.
The Purim Desert Carnival is held March 21-23 in Ashram BaMidbar (Ashram in the Desert), a vegan community in one of Israel’s most isolated locations 45 minutes south of the Ramon Crater. Expect lots of dancing, workshops, performances and parties with likeminded souls from all over the world.
3. Family-friendly events
Yaron Festival photo by Yosi Tzviker
Purim is not only a time for parties. It is also a time when Israel’s museums and theaters put on special programs to celebrate the holiday with a spirit of pure family-friendly fun.
At Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, in conjunction with the “Mirror Doubles” workshop, a Purim clown performance will focus on mirror science, dress-up and balloons. Two shows are scheduled on March 20-23, see website for details.
Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem is holding a special Purim performance focused on mirror science. Photo: courtesy
Check out events such as the Purim Race at the Tower of David Museum, which involves racing through the city’s museums and streets to find clues and solve riddles enacted by street performers; or head up to Haifa’s National Maritime Museum for its Superhero Happening and Purim Pirate activities surrounding the “Superheroes of the Sea” exhibition.
For a theatrical experience, search for local performances like the four-day Yaron Festival of children’s theater at Porat Theater in Tel Aviv. This year’s schedule includes Hebrew versions of Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes.
4. Make your own fun, for you and your kids
Make your own Purim finger puppets from Mazel Tov Shop. Photo by Jenny Lipets
Get into the spirit of things by doing some fun kid activities on your own terms.
March is peak strawberry season in Israel. As mild rainy winters encourage the earth to turn lush and green, it is the perfect time to get out there and pick your own berries on farms like Ruach Shtutin Gan Shmuel, just outside of Hadera. We suggest getting dressed up and enjoying all the juicy gems you can gobble down, for a healthy Purim treat.
If Purim day is rainy, why not cuddle up inside with some awesomely fun Purim activities and crafts, like these created by Israeli artist Jenny Lipets, found in her Mazel Tov Shop?
5. Hear a Megillah reading
See what the origin of the holiday is all about by getting back to the roots. Megillat Esther (Scroll of
Esther) is read aloud at night (March 20) and morning (March 21) – a day later in Jerusalem; see above — and you can duck into any Israeli shul, no questions asked.
Just make sure you observe the appropriate customs in Orthodox shuls, such as women praying separately from men and dressing modestly, and bring a noisemaker to drown out evil Haman’s name!
Another option is casually strolling into one of the many public Megillah readingssponsored by the Tzohar organization.
Chabad centers such as this one in downtown Haifa, are known for throwing educational parties and holiday celebrations open to students, young couples and travelers from all backgrounds.
6. Bakery hop for hamantaschen
Savory goat cheese hamantashen with onion jam and sesame from Roladin. Photo by Ronen Mengen
Halloween has its candy, but Purim easily trumps that with its bakery-fresh hamantaschen (called oznei Haman, or “Haman’s ears” in Hebrew). With inventive fillings and doughs, both savory and sweet — traditional flavors are poppy seed, date and the oh-so-popular Israeli chocolate spread — most every bakery in any city is going to have a stash for you to sample.
If new uncharted hamantaschen flavors are what you seek, check out Roladin, which has locations all over the country. On Roladin’s 2019 list of flavors is a grown-up almond-crusted cookie with ricotta cream and lemon filling, and chocolate praline made with an almond butter cookie dough, and finished with a dark chocolate glaze.
Alternatively, why not make your own? Watch our video below to find out how to do it. The recipe itself is here.
7. Dress the part
Whether you’re more inclined to go traditional (that is dress up like Esther or Haman), or wear a costume from a movie that came out last year (which honestly, you’ll have an easier time procuring), there’s no need to make your own or spend a fortune.
Any discount store in Israel is bound to have an array of costumes and accessories to choose from, for a desirable price. Try Max Stock, which has stores country-wide, and a wide selection of cheap costumes and masks that do the trick.
You’ve got to look the part. Purim revelers at a party in Kikar Ha’Medina in Tel Aviv. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90
8. Don’t panic… and other survival tips
One of the less charming Purim traditions you will undoubtedly notice on the streets is Israeli teens making lots of noise and mess with annoying little poppers and silly spray. So do not panic if you hear a loud popping noise, or smell the sweet smell of plastic foam — just don’t say we didn’t warn you.
If you do venture out into the fun, bring a change of clothes, some water (this is Israel–stay hydrated!) and anything else you might need for a night-out survival kit—such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Should you need assistance, dialing 911 in Israel will get you nowhere. Find all the emergency and service numbers you will ever need here.
And of course, it always helps to know where the public bathrooms are.
If you’d rather avoid the noise during your Purim visit to Israel, take this time to plan your rural retreat. Staying in a city center on Purim is bound to be a loud experience.
9. Enjoy Israeli spirits
Tubi 60, a strong Israeli citrus and herbal spirit drink. Photo: courtesy
You’re in Israel for the one holiday that encourages you to get stupid drunk (but please remember our plea to drink responsibly!), so you might as well support the grassroots craft spirits industry while you’re at it.
Israeli-made alcohols such as the mysterious Tubi 60; the interestingly complex whisky from the Golan Heights Distillery; and anise-infused araks like Arak Masadawill give you a sense of the big strides being made in this industry.
Wall of Israeli craft brews at Jerusalem’s Beer Bazaar. Photo: courtesy
If you’re not a hard alcohol person, don’t worry: Israeli has more than 100 varieties of craft beer, and countless wineries. Specialty supermarkets like Tiv Tamare your best bet for finding a good variety of wines and craft beers coming from across the country.
10. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to drive
Purim partiers waiting at a bus stop in Jerusalem. Photo by Yossi Zamir/FLASH90
Ever tried to park in Tel Aviv on a normal day? It’s a tedious and frustrating task at best on any given Monday, let alone on one of the city’s busiest holidays. Plus, drinking and driving is always a bad idea.
Therefore, we suggesting utilizing the many other ways of getting around in Israel on Purim, such as Israel Railways, cabs (try the Gettapp for cab drivers who drive for ratings, and pick you up whenever you need); and other ridesharing solutions such as Waze rideshare (look on the app for drivers who happen to be passing by you on their way home); and Uber, which operates in Tel Aviv.
Other public transport such as buses and Jerusalem’s light rail, Haifa’s Carmelit “subway” and fast-track bus Metronit all help you get around without having to get behind the wheel. Use the Moovit app to check schedules and real-time arrival info.
Topics: culture, travel, Purim
UNCOVER ISRAEL - Get the ISRAEL21cWeekly Edition free by email
Sign Up Now!
How is Purim celebrated? Purim is characterized by public readings of the Book of Esther, giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, and a festive meal. Other customs include drinking wine and the wearing of masks and costumes.What is Purim and how do people celebrate it? ›
The ritual observance of Purim begins with a day of fasting, Taʿanit Esther (Fast of Esther) on Adar 13, the day preceding the actual holiday. The most distinctive aspect of the synagogue service is the reading of the Book of Esther. On Purim Jews are also enjoined to exchange gifts and make donations to the poor.How do you acknowledge Purim? ›
The proper greeting for people celebrating Purim is “happy Purim,” or chag Purim sameach in Hebrew. The phrase Chag sameach means “happy holiday” and can be used for any joyous Jewish holiday.What symbols are used in Purim? ›
Symbols. Graggers (wooden noisemakers) are symbolic of Purim. Graggers are often made of wood and consist of a handle fixed to a cogged wheel. The cogs on the wheel taps a thin piece of wood fixed to the handle, when the gragger is spun around.What is Purim for Israelites? ›
Purim is the festival that celebrates the Jewish people in the Persian Empire's survival in the face of destruction. It followed in the wake of a plot by Haman. The festival is wildly popular. It is not a day when people do not work, and businesses are open pretty well as usual.How can we celebrate Purim at home? ›
- Dress up in costumes and enjoy a costume parade.
- Sing along and shake your grogger with a playlist of Purim songs.
- Bake hamantaschen and put them in mishloach manot, Purim gift baskets. ...
- Craft costumes together. ...
- The entire family can get in on the Purim fun together!
Purim, which literally means “lots” and is sometimes known as the Feast of Lots, is the Jewish holiday in which Jews commemorate being saved from persecution in the ancient Persian Empire.Why is Purim important? ›
Purim is one of the most entertaining Jewish holidays. Purim commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by the courage of a young Jewish woman called Esther.Why do you dress up for Purim? ›
In order to remind us of how God remained hidden throughout the Purim miracle, many Jews dress up on Purim and hide their faces. Another explanation is that the costumes represent the non-Jews who pretended to be members of the tribe, after the Jews were victorious.What should I dress up as for Purim? ›
Whether or not you're part of the production, traditional Purim costumes are a popular favorite to wear for the occasion. Mordecai and Queen Esther are some of the more popular characters when dressing up for Purim, but King Achaverosh, Haman and Queen Vashti round out the other main characters that you might see.
On Purim we celebrate the bravery of Queen Esther, a very smart Jewish woman who was married to a king, Ahashverosh. When Esther learned that Haman, who worked for the king, was plotting against the Jews, she summoned the courage to tell the king about Haman's evil plan and saved her people.What happens at Purim? ›
Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrated by reading the Book of Esther, exchanging food and drink and partaking in a celebratory meal known as a se'udat Purim.What activities are done during Purim? ›
Traditions include dressing up, sharing gift baskets or mishloach manot with friends, making noise by shaking groggers, and staying up late with your friends and community." This big list of crafts, recipes, stories, and activities from PJ Library has lots of ideas for the whole family.What time does Purim start? ›
Purim lasts for one day. It begins at sundown on the first night (for 2022, that's March 16) until sundown the next day (March 17 for this year).What does Purim mean in the Bible? ›
|Purim by Arthur Szyk|
|Significance||Celebration of Jewish deliverance as told in the Book of Esther (megillah)|
Listening to a public reading of the Book of Esther (reading of the megillah) Sending food gifts to friends (mishloach manot) Giving charity to the poor (mattanot la-evyonim) Eating a festive meal (se'udat Purim)What is the day before Purim called? ›
The day before Purim (the 13th of Adar) is a fast day called Ta'anit Esther (the Fast of Esther). The fast commemorates how Esther and the entire Jewish community of Shushan fasted for three days before Esther approached the king (in Esther 4:16). Read more in the story of Purim below.Can you use phone on Purim? ›
Can I use my phone on Purim? Yes, for the entirety of the day. However, it is generally considered polite to refrain from use while in the synagogue.How do you celebrate Purim baby? ›
- Dress your child in costume. ...
- Attend a Purim Megillah reading at a local synagogue. ...
- Read the Purim story to your children at home. ...
- Give to Charity. ...
- Give Mishloach Manot to friends. ...
- Eat Hamantashen cookies.
The first reference to Purim is in the deuterocanonical book Maccabees II (15:32), which merely says that on the 14th of the Jewish month of Adar, Jews celebrated a holiday called "Mordecai Day." Clearly the holiday was celebrated in at least some Jewish communities as early as 124 BCE, when this book was written in ...
The first reference to Purim is in the deuterocanonical book Maccabees II (15:32), which merely says that on the 14th of the Jewish month of Adar, Jews celebrated a holiday called "Mordecai Day." Clearly the holiday was celebrated in at least some Jewish communities as early as 124 BCE, when this book was written in ...What is meaning of the name Esther? ›
Meaning:star; hide. Esther is a girl's name of Persian origin and great merit within the Hebrew bible.Is Purim the most important holiday? ›
The holiest day of the year is Yom Kippur, which is known in the Bible as Yom HaKipurim. The happiest day of the year is Purim, which is coming up in just a few days on Wednesday night, February 28, and Thursday, March 1. The names of these festivals are quite similar.What was Esther afraid of? ›
Esther fears to reveal herself, because she is a Jew and also because the penalty for going to the king's inner court uninvited is death, unless the king raises his scepter in approval. But Mordecai warns her that there is no security in silence.Why is the Book of Esther important to Jews? ›
The purpose of the Book of Esther is open to different interpretations. It can be understood as commending human responsibility instead of misguided dependence on God: the Jews in the book must take matters into their own hands to preserve their existence, rather than wait for God to act.Why do kids dress as clowns on Purim? ›
Purim is the festival of masks and fancy dress. A contemporary Israeli scholar, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed explains, in his book Pninei Halachah, that dressing up in costumes breaks down barriers between people, creating camaraderie and friendship. This is the power of clowning, which can turn enemies into friends.Is Purim like Halloween? ›
Though experts told USA TODAY some Jews don't embrace comparing the holiday to Halloween, Purim is often likened to modern Halloween celebrations because both involve dressing up in costumes and going to carnivals and other festivities. “You can think of Purim as the Jewish Halloween,” Nadell said.Do adults dress up for Purim? ›
Dressing up, costumes, and masks aren't mentioned in the Book of Esther. There is no indication that anyone ever dressed up for Purim in the Mishnah, Talmud, or in the literature of the Gaonim. Nor is the practice so much as mentioned in the writings of Rashi and Maimonides in the High Middle Ages.What is the most popular Purim costume? ›
The most popular Purim costumes are those portraying the main characters of the story: King Achashverosh, Queen Vashti (whose refusal to appear at the king's banquet led to Esther becoming queen), Esther, Haman and Mordecai. The costumes of the king and queen look a lot like Halloween king and queen costumes.Who is the villain in Purim? ›
As told in the Book of Esther, Haman, the wicked Prime Minister of Persia, set a date to do his evil deed but was foiled by two Jews, Mordecai and Esther. Scholars date the story to the fifth century B.C.
Purim is a festival when Jews remember the biblical Esther. Esther was the Queen of Persia . She was also Jewish but her husband, the King, didn't know this. The King's chief minister was Haman, a man who hated the Jews. Esther's uncle would not bow down to Haman.What is the Passover for kids? ›
Passover is a Jewish holiday that honors the freedom and exodus of the Israelites (Jewish slaves) from Egypt during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II. Before the ancient Jews fled Egypt, their firstborn children were "passed over" and spared from death, thus dubbing the holiday "Passover."Why do Jews dress up on Purim? ›
In order to remind us of how God remained hidden throughout the Purim miracle, many Jews dress up on Purim and hide their faces. Another explanation is that the costumes represent the non-Jews who pretended to be members of the tribe, after the Jews were victorious.Why is Purim celebrated on a different day in Jerusalem? ›
Purim is universally celebrated on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar. But in Jerusalem, it's celebrated a day late, on a day called Shushan Purim. The Book of Esther describes how the Jews of Persia defeated their enemies on Adar 13 and rested the day afterwards, leading Purim to be celebrated on the 14th.Why do we drink on Purim? ›
The custom of drinking wine on Purim stems from a quotation in the Talmud attributed to a fourth century rabbi, Rava: “One must drink on Purim until that person cannot distinguish between cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai” (Megillah 7b).How long does Purim last? ›
How long is Purim? Purim lasts for one day. It begins at sundown on the first night (for 2022, that's March 16) until sundown the next day (March 17 for this year).Why do kids dress as clowns on Purim? ›
Purim is the festival of masks and fancy dress. A contemporary Israeli scholar, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed explains, in his book Pninei Halachah, that dressing up in costumes breaks down barriers between people, creating camaraderie and friendship. This is the power of clowning, which can turn enemies into friends.What do you wear for Purim? ›
The boys usually wear crowns and colored capes, while the girls may wear similar outfits or simple colorful robes and tiaras. Sometimes they are dressed like princesses. Esther is usually dressed in a simple purple robe with a tiara.Do adults dress up for Purim? ›
Dressing up, costumes, and masks aren't mentioned in the Book of Esther. There is no indication that anyone ever dressed up for Purim in the Mishnah, Talmud, or in the literature of the Gaonim. Nor is the practice so much as mentioned in the writings of Rashi and Maimonides in the High Middle Ages.Why is it called Purim? ›
Purim, which literally means “lots” and is sometimes known as the Feast of Lots, is the Jewish holiday in which Jews commemorate being saved from persecution in the ancient Persian Empire.
A common greeting on Purim is to say either “Chag Purim Sameach” (in Hebrew), or “Freilichin Purim” (in Yiddish). Both phrases roughly translate as 'Happy Purim', though a more exact translation of the Hebrew wording would be, 'Happy Purim Holiday'.Is Purim a Sabbath day? ›
The day on which Purim is celebrated (14th of Adar) can never occur on, Sabbath. The 15th of Adar does occasionally fall on the Sabbath. The Jews of Jerusalem, who celebrate the 15th of Adar then must celebrate a "three day Purim".Why is pork not kosher? ›
Kosher meat comes from animals that have split hooves -- like cows, sheep, and goats -- and chew their cud. When these types of animals eat, partially digested food (cud) returns from the stomach for them to chew again. Pigs, for example, have split hooves, but they don't chew their cud. So pork isn't kosher.Are you allowed to get drunk on Purim? ›
In the Sefer Hameorot it is written that making oneself drunk is not the Torah's idea of joy: “It is only an act of foolishness.” Rabbenu Efraim of the Gemara ruled that the Talmud rejected the obligation to drink wine on Purim. Rabbi Dr.Do Jews work on Purim? ›
Purim has more of a national than a religious character, and its status as a holiday is on a different level from those days ordained holy by the Torah. Hallel is not recited. As such, according to some authorities, business transactions and even manual labor are allowed on Purim under certain circumstances.What is the real story of Purim? ›
Purim is a nice holiday commemorating the saving of the Jews by Queen Esther, who is good and sweet and feeds her husband before she asks any favors.How do you celebrate Purim in 2022? ›
- Listening to a public reading of the Book of Esther (reading of the megillah)
- Sending food gifts to friends (mishloach manot)
- Giving charity to the poor (mattanot la-evyonim)
- Eating a festive meal (se'udat Purim)
Purim is one of the most fun holidays celebrated by the Jewish people, but is often under recognized. Purim (held on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar — usually March or April) commemorates the day Esther, Queen of Persia, saved the Jewish people from execution by Haman, the advisor to the Persian king.