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The Meaning of Purim - A Reminder

By Paula Stern
3/20/2011, 12:00 AM
Years ago, there was a terrible attack a few hours before Purim began. We were invited to a Purim party at friends after hearing the Megillah and putting the kids to sleep. As Purim entered and we walked to the synagogue, they were still counting the bodies in Tel Aviv. 

I called our friend in tears, waiting to hear his confirmation that the party had been canceled. He told me that it was not canceled. I told him I could not come...I could not laugh...I just did not want to celebrate and be happy. I needed to mourn. He listened to everything I said...and then completely ignored it. "Paula," he said, "you will come and you will be happy." 

I figured on a compromise - I would go, but I would NOT be happy. We went to the party - driving through the Arab village to get there. This was years ago when these areas were not closed to Israeli traffic as they are today. Years ago, when the Arabs understood that if they wanted Jews to buy in their stores, they couldn't expect to be allowed to stone the cars, throw firebombs at them, etc.

I'd been in the village many times. On a normal evening, the men would be sitting outside the stores, smoking or drinking coffee. If you drove by, they ignored you; if you stopped to shop, they would get up, welcome you to the stores, even offer you Turkish coffee (which I've never tasted in my life).

But that night, it was different. The village was deserted - all the Arabs were inside their homes. Not because there was any closure, but because they understood, I believe, the incredible and justifiable fury we felt. No one driving through the village attacked anything. No one shouted in anger but it was best for all sides if there was no contact. We knew this as we looked at their homes and thought of our dead laying in the streets of Tel Aviv, and they knew this too.

They gave us time for our anger and for our pain. Of course, back then, they knew it was Arabs who had set the bomb and there was no attempt to pretend or claim others had done it. How different, I thought, that now again they attack us around Purim, but this time pretend. Though initially Fatah claimed responsibility and indeed is likely to be found responsible, they and others stepped back from this claim. Palestinian news source, Maan, even had the audacity to suggest that Thai workers were to blame, despite the fact that there are no Thai workers on Itamar. 

Purim is supposed to be a time of triumph, of celebration. Why do the Arabs attack close to Purim? They want to take this from us, my friend told me, that night. He was right. That was part of why the Fogel family was attacked and murdered, part of why yesterday sixty mortars and rockets were fired at Israel. And as they attack, it is our responsibility to remind them of the essence of Purim, the victory we claim as ours year after year. So, I baked for Purim as I always do. I laughed and enjoyed the holiday with my family, as I always do.

The more we mourn, the greater will be our joy. The more we cry, the more we will laugh. 

We will reach deep inside ourselves. We will never forget Rav Udi and Ruthie. We will always mourn for Yoav, Elad, and for baby Hadas and we will watch over Tamar, Roei and Yishai. But, we will celebrate the miracle that is Purim. We will celebrate our triumph over the evil that was Haman, that was Hitler, and that is Fatah and Hamas.

Purim is an incredible story - from promised destruction to watching as our enemies die the very death they would have given to us. It is what happened then, what has happened again and again in our history. So today, we cooked a special meal and ate out on our balcony surrounded by our neighbors. There was singing and laughter. A neighbor called to my son-in-law and offered him a drink. My son-in-law held up a bottle of wine to show we had our own drinks here.

The neighbor's guest said it was a silly drink and my son-in-law should come over and share with them. Men dressed in costumes, children laughed and played in the yards, the balconies, the streets.

An explosion was heard in the southern region - 10,000 people attended a parade. My two older sons have gone into Jerusalem; my youngest son will leave shortly. We made packages of cakes and food and delivered them to our friends, and got bags and bags delivered to us.

There's a gentle breeze blowing; I can still hear the music. Purim for most of Israel is just beginning to fade away but the sense of blessing and triumph remain. We have outlasted them all. We watched the Ancient Egyptians fade into history, watched as Greece and Rome fell. Haman fell before us, as Amalek had before him. We watched the Cossacks and the Crusaders come and go. We watched as Haman was hanged on the very tree he would have used for Mordechai. 

Nation after nation has fallen, time and time again. Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, the Soviet Union, Saddam Hussein - all that vowed our destruction are no more. This isn't pride or arrogance, but faith. The moon circles the earth; the earth circles the sun and each day, the Jewish nation does what it must to survive.

Last Shabbat was one trial, one horrible, agonizing pain but here we are a week later, remembering that we will survive it. Tamar Fogel, just 12-years-old, and already smarter than most of our government - we will build, we will settle, we will survive and we will triumph. As the day fades away, we remember all that came before, knowing it strengthens us for all that will come in the future.

Happy Purim - may its blessing light the way for the year to come until we are again granted this wonderful, triumphant reminder that we are the children of Israel and we are home.