General Antisemitism

On Remembering: Purim in Israel, 1932 and 2012

Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil – Elie Wiesel

Purim commemorates a time (roughly 423 BCE) when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.  The hereos of the story are Esther, a young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordechai, who raised her as if she were his daughter.

Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem, and made her queen, as the king did not know that she was a Jew.

The villain of the story is Haman, an egotistical advisor to the king.  

Haman hated Mordecai because he refused to bow down to him.  So Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people.  Haman told the king,

“There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king’s laws; therefore it does not profit the king to suffer them.”

The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, who planned to exterminate all of the Jews.

Mordechai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jews, though this was very dangerous for Esther to do because going before the king without being summoned could result in execution.

However, Esther went to the king, who actually welcomed her.

Esther told the king of Haman’s plot, who was moved by her plea, and the Jews were saved.

Purim is a joyous holiday. In addition to hearing the reading of the book of Esther, known as the Megillah, we are also commanded to eat, drink and, well, be merry.

Carnival-like celebrations are typically held to celebrate the holiday and, in Israel, its hard to forget the holiday as the sight of costume-adorned Israelis, both children and adults, fill the streets.

When I first came across the following video of Purim celebrations in Tel Aviv in 1932 I was amazed to see a glimpse of life in the country 16 years prior to Independence – the joy, spirit and merriment in the first Hebrew city.

But, it was also impossible not to recall that 1932-1933 marked the rise of the Nazis regime – fateful years which ushered in the rise of an the era’s new Haman who, though ultimately vanquished, extinguished one half of European Jewry.

Our day’s Persian Haman is given subsistence due to cynicism, indifference, ignorance and  forgetfulness.

Whether secular or religious, being a Jew means remembering. 

Elie Wiesel wrote:

I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people. Their best characteristic is their desire to remember. No other people has such an obsession with memory.

No, Judaism isn’t defined merely by adherence to Torah (the Hebrew Bible) or Halacha (Jewish law) but, rather, to a collective historical memory regarding those who have sought, and currently seek, our destruction – and the stubborn refusal to be assigned to the dustbin or history.

Today is the day to remember what the committed few can do against the powerful many.

Purim Sameach!

Categories: General Antisemitism

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12 replies »

  1. Thanks very much for posting the video. I found it deeply moving. The liveliness, the rich civil society, and the sheer numbers of the Jews of Tel Aviv already in the early nineteen-thirties are inspiring, but the warnings of the dangers of Nazism are haunting.

    The video is also great for Hebrew practice. I expect to watch it multiple times. Thanks again.

  2. It’s great footage.

    I think the date might be wrong. Correct me if I’m off, but I think the boycott they’re referring to started in the spring of 1933.

    I love Dizengoff and his horse.

  3. “If it pleases the King, let it be recorded.that they(Jews) be destroyed: and I (Haman) wil pay ten thousand silver talents into the hands of those who perform the duties”

    You can find Haman’s name hidden within in the name of the current president of Iran. You will also find the rest of the world today accepting the 10,000 talents within the continuing oil and gas contracts being handed out to those who wish to look the other way,whilst Ahmadinejad and radical Islam plan the destruction of the Jewish people in Israel.

    You will also find the progressive left in the West, as represented by the Guardian, and the haters of Jews everywhere, demonising and deligitimising the State of Israel so as to aid and abet radical Islam in achieving their aims.

    The Megillah of Ester is a direct warning to the Jews of today

  4. Thanks for this fascinating video. I was surprised by the sheer numbers of Jews already living in Tel Aviv at that time. I was expecting a much smaller crowd. And what joy and joie de vivre those early Israelis expressed in their excited preparations for that wonderful Purim parade. What a humbling thought.

  5. Yes, indeed AKUS! That careful elegant Hebrew – we ‘talked’ about this once…

    My mother, who knows about these things, tells me that the Book of Esther does not mention God/Hashem even once. Any scholar out there who can confirm?

  6. There is no direct mention of God in the text. There are a number of passages where a reference is inferred. (“Help will come from another place”.) The name ‘Esther’ itself can be interpreted to be from a root word meaning ‘hidden’, and the traditional concept is that God’s hidden presence is seen working throughout the text.