Israel, the world's oldest and mostly profoundly influential living nation, celebrates the holiday of Purim Monday. The holiday marks the miraculous turn of events by which the Jews of the ancient kingdom of Persia were saved at the last minute from a plan hatched by a top court adviser, Haman, to annihilate them. The wisdom and courage of two Jews - Mordechai and his niece Esther - turn the tables on Haman, who ends up dead along with his sons.
While many secular and non-Jewish people see the holiday mostly as an excuse for children to get dressed up in costumes, this is no "Jewish Halloween": rather, Purim is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish year and the Jewish sages have devoted countless learned debates over the centuries to the hidden meanings of the Scroll of Esther and the holiday's traditions.
Masquerading on Purim reminds us that Queen Esther did not tell the king she was Jewish until the end of the story, and may also symbolize, as do the traditional pocket foods eaten on the holiday--hamantaschen, stuffed cabbage and the Jewish won tons called kreplach--that the miracle of Purim was a hidden, seemingly natural deliverance from danger and not a visible wonder like the parting of the Red Sea..
The photos show celebrations throughout Israel, among religious and non-religious people.