This is the month of Adar. For those not in the know, it means that Purim is rapidly approaching. Purim is the story of the wicked Haman who sought to destroy the Jews (it's always tales of destroying the Jews) and was stopped by the beateous (of course) Queen Esther, aided by her Cousin Mordechai (but it's a close relationship...), and only inadvertently assisted by the buffoonish King Achash'vey'rosh, who really is a party animal and not interested in his kingdom but is helped to see the light by the aforementioned Queen Esther - she having been made queen after he deposed the previous Queen Vashti. The Jews are given the right to fight back against Haman's decree to kill them off. They are victorious and in the city of Shushan there is happiness and celebration. Celebration in Jewish terms means food of course and in this case, one is supposed to drink until they don't know the difference between Haman and Mordechai in the story.
Israelis like Purim. They really like Purim. At the beginning of the Jewish month of Adar, they begin the celebration. Stores open selling costumes (you're supposed to dress up and party) and other silly party paraphernalia from feather boas to silly hats to prank gifts and gags. Akiva came home last week on 2 separate occasions with indications of having had his face painted in school. The boys told of other celebratory shenanigans that they encountered during their respective days at school and ulpan. Parties are scheduled and plans made for Purim day. Here in J'lem, we are doubly blessed. We get to celebrate 2x. Basically, Purim is celebrated country wide on Sunday BUT because J'lem is a walled city - even though most don't live within the walls, J'lemites celebrate a day later on what is called Shushan Purim (the day that the Shushanites celebrated in Persia because the fighting took longer in Shushan and Shushan was a walled city - get that? whew).
Today, the big boys and I went downtown to look at Purim paraphernalia. We made some choices and then headed back to Emek Refaim (after a long stop at a local piano store but again, Natan wasn't knocked out by any of the pianos but I like the owner, who makes excellent turkish coffee each time I've gone by) for Natan's piano lesson. Gabe and I had hot chocolate (really hot choc, none of this powdered stuff for us) and a machiato respectively while waiting for Natan. Pleasantly souped up by all this caffeine, I went and picked up Natan (Gabe headed home on his own) and we walked home, stopping by a store on Derekh Beit Lehem for some gifts for my upcoming trip (assuming there's no Gen'l Strike on Wed and I actually get out of Dodge on Thurs but that's a separate problem). Hunger loomed for Natan. Our luck was with us and we stopped by Felafel Ovad (best local shack in the 'hood) for a sandwich. I wasn't eating, just picking. Natan ordered felafel with all the fixings and we stood waiting while our felafel was freshly fried. We discussed the name of the special spring operated felafel shaping tool that our guy was using but for the life of me I can't remember the name of it anymore (either could he, his cohort knew what it was called) and we enjoyed the dance of his hands as they shaped the little guys and dropped them into the sizzling oil. The 2 counter guys were in a very good mood and I noted they were pouring some wine and toasting each other. Why? Well, Guy 1 tells me that he's having a wine tasting ever since the month started. He's determining what to drink at his Purim Seudah/Festive Meal, next week. He pours for me. I taste and tell him that it's lovely and it was, but it was also rainy and cold and anything vaguely warming would have worked for me. He tells me about the winery and lets me know that if I come by tomorrow, he'll have, please g-d he adds, 24 bottles that he'll be selling at discount. I tell him that I'll send Ira for a tasting as he likes a good red as well (it was a cab blend). He makes up Natan's felafel - it's a work of art; a smear of humous, a smear of garlic spread, dab of hot sauce, a few felafel balls at the base, mid level of chopped salad and pickles and fried eggplant, more felafel, upper level of pickled onions, cabbage and chips (french fries), blob of tahini and you're good to go. Natan scarfs it down as I pay and he gives me a plastic cup of wine, covered in foil to bring home (in the rain) for Ira. Only in Israel. Only during the month of Adar.
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