Settlers party for Purim amidst clashes in Hebron

on 14 Comments
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Palestinians look on from the balcony of their home as Israeli settlers celebrate the annual Purim parade on February 24 in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
(Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

When I was a kid celebrating Purim there was two costumes for girls and three for boys. Girls could be either a maid or Esther, and boys were the King, Mordechai, or Haman. Each class of students in our Conservative Hebrew school performed a segment of the Megillat Esther, the religious book that is story behind the festival of Purim. Then after we would pile into the shul for an interactive narration of the Megillat (boo, hiss!). At the close of the reading the rabbi would ask questions about the story, and if we answered correctly he gave us a Dixie cup of Manischewitz.

Always up for a challenge, I used to read the story in advance to prepare for the games, often having to use two hands to later recount the number of answers I got right. “On this day we remember the tale of our heroine Esther, who refused to do what to save her people?” (“she fasted for three days and then invited the king to a feast!”) There was no racism, no Iran (the modern day location for the Book of Esther), no reverence of Jewish nationalism, and Esther–the queen and the best character in the play–saved everyone.

By contrast last week for Purim settlers in Hebron celebrated a mélange of secularism and nationalism. The ideological vanguard of the Jewish state donned not just five, but an array of costumes on Sunday, February 24, including such jingoistic outfits as a “soldier” and an “Arab,” according to the reels of pictures posted online. Living inside the protection of H2, the Israeli-controlled area of the West Bank city, settlers enjoyed a street parade that went off without a hitch, all while black smoke from clashes with the Israeli military darkened the sky. The clashes started days before for the annual Open Shuhada Street demonstration, organized by Palestinians against Oslo’s splitting of the city.

For days following last week’s march, life in Hebron was miserable with skunk gas causing vomiting and nausea.

To me, it is bizarre when settlers—especially the zealots on the front lines of Judaizing the West Bank—secularize Jewish holidays. Taking another step back I am equally floored that a non-religious parade for a religious holiday functions as an act of conquest over Palestinian urban space.

My Jewish education was just that, a study of Judaism not Zionism. Sure Israel was loved, but not outright and not enough to ever once demonize the Palestinian population. I know that last bit seems improbable, but it’s true. In class, we spent our days practicing prayers and learning the ever-so-detailed ways to observe our traditions. “And how many times do we bow in the teffilah?” (Four, it’s four times!).

This is not to say my unnamed Hebrew school loved Palestinians. In fact, we never were taught Palestinians existed until Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated and someone had to explain who Yasser Arafat was and why he’s part of the story. I can recall our mournful Israeli instructors devastated over the loss of Rabin. He was their JFK; he was their John Lennon.

Perhaps ignoring the native population was crime of omission, a denial of the full truth. That’s how I viewed it when I first learned about the Nakba, where 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homeland. “How could they not tell us this happened!” I lamented in my teenage years. But later my mourning over concealing Nakba found closure as I learned about how other peoples’ Jewish education hinged on political support for whatever Israeli administration was in power.

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Young Jewish settlers, some dressed in costume to celebrate the holiday of Purim, watch as smoke rises from clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians during a protest in the West Bank city of Hebron February 24, 2013. (Photo: Reuters: Ronen Zvulun)
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A Jewish settler, dressed in costume, stands near Israeli soldiers as they guard during a parade for the holiday of Purim in the West Bank city of Hebron February 24, 2013. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
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Israeli settlers take part in the annual Purim parade in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on February 24, 2013. (Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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14 Responses

  1. Abdul-Rahman
    March 5, 2013, 2:44 pm

    Some Zionist fascists have attempted to use this “story”, a bloodsoaked fantasy as it is which all interestingly never mentions a deity of any kind, in their modern political propaganda. Interesting fact on that:

    “Comparatively few modern scholars of note consider the narrative of Esther to rest on a historical foundation… The vast majority of modern expositors have reached the conclusion that the book is a piece of pure fiction, although some writers qualify their criticism by an attempt to treat it as a historical romance.

    Source: “Esther”, The Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1905, Volume V, Funk & Wagnalls Company: London & New York, pp. 235-236.

    • tokyobk
      March 5, 2013, 6:14 pm

      Imagine that, someone using a (probably invented blood-soaked fantasy) from a religious text, as an inspiration for modern political propaganda. How rare!

    • Abdul-Rahman
      March 5, 2013, 6:46 pm

      On the fictional book of “Esther” I meant to say that it is a bloodsoaked fantasy, which ALSO interestingly never mentions a deity of any kind.

    • jon s
      March 7, 2013, 4:17 pm

      The Book of Esther – fiction or not- is the story of the Jews successfully resisting and foiling attempted genocide. Does that bother you?

  2. MHughes976
    March 5, 2013, 3:31 pm

    You had a version of Estber where everyone was saved, Allison? I want it for the Church of England – we could have Protestant Purim and all dress up.

  3. DICKERSON3870
    March 5, 2013, 4:11 pm

    RE: “if we answered correctly he gave us a Dixie cup of
    ” ~ Allison Deger

    MY KUDOS: Manischewitz in a Dixie cup! That’s incredibly potent imagery! I love it! ! !

    • Annie Robbins
      March 5, 2013, 7:27 pm

      i know i love the imagery. the first 2 paragraphs are beyond delightful. it’s like peeking into someone’s diary.

  4. Palmyra
    March 5, 2013, 4:28 pm

    That last pic is the stuff of nightmares, real talk!

  5. Fritz
    March 5, 2013, 5:12 pm

    Emil Fackenheim, Jewish philosopher educated in pre-Kristallnacht Germany until 1937, gave a lecture about Esther in 1995. Post-Holocaust Non-Jews should learn to stand by Esther and her people and enjoy in the hanging of Haman (which means the deeds of the IDF), but Jews also should learn that the demand of Esther not only to kill Haman but also his ten sons who had no guilt in anything which is narrated (which means hate against non-Jews) went to far: “Then said Esther: ‘If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews that are in Shushan to do to-morrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.’ And the king commanded it so to be done; and a decree was given out in Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons.” It would be interesting to know what the Hebron settlers teach their children about the ten sons of Haman.

  6. thankgodimatheist
    March 5, 2013, 5:22 pm

    Ah, the settlers. Once there were Mussolini’s Blackshirts, Hitler’s Brown Shirts and now “god”‘s White Shirts..

  7. Egbert
    March 5, 2013, 6:44 pm

    One more for the Purim ‘blackface’ collection–/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7Zmk9aW5zZXQ7aD0xMDI0O3E9Nzk7dz0xNTM2/

    A settler child dressed as a Palestinian freely walking the streets, whilst the real Palestinians are locked out. The fearful reaction of the two other children to the left of the shot says it all.

    • Bumblebye
      March 5, 2013, 7:52 pm

      What does it say about their racism that the kid is also in blackface?!

  8. Avi_G.
    March 5, 2013, 7:08 pm

    Every time an article is written about Hebron it needs to include a short background statement that makes the facts clear, that states them in no uncertain terms.

    The majority of the homes in which these Hebron colonists live were 10 or 20 years ago Palestinian homes whose families they forcibly evicted, sometimes at gun-point, sometimes by means of constant harassment and terrorism, throwing garbage, excrement, sewage water, shooting live ammunition at the doors of Palestinian homes in the middle of the night or throwing fire bombs (molotov) at Palestinian shops.

    In addition, the Hebron colonists are numbered in the hundreds, some 500 of them. And with the help and protection of the Israeli military they dictate to more than 170,000 Palestinians where to walk, what streets to use, when to open or close shops, when to leave their own homes and when to go go to work, pray or sleep.

    The tragic reality is that the officers of the Palestinian Authority — as per the Oslo provisions — coordinate, cooperate and collaborate fully with the Israeli military in parts where the Israeli military has shared jurisdiction with PA forces. The Palestinian Authority is a modern-day equivalent to the Vichy government that worked hand in glove with occupation forces.

  9. justicewillprevail
    March 5, 2013, 7:36 pm

    Wow, the grotesquery of these photos is surreal. Dressing up as clowns and partying in the middle of militarised ghetto, as if nothing was the matter, as if people weren’t locked down, harassed and humiliated in front of them, deprived of their homes, shops and free passage – in their own town. Something out of a horror gore fest, which is what I suppose Israel views Palestine as. Get out the popcorn while we watch some native people get arrested, tortured and humiliated. Hey, why don’t you throw some of them to the lions, for your entertainment. You’re the new Romans now.

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