Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Celebrated Purim Twice in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is as modern a city as the come, but adjacent to it is the ancient port of Jaffa – and as an ancient city, it qualifies to celebrate Shushan Purim, the “second day” of Purim that is most famously celebrated in Jerusalem.
But the circumstances that make Shushan Purim an official day of celebration apply elsewhere. Ancient walled cities in the Land of Israel that were extant in the days of Jewish leader Joshua are included in the list of cities where the Scroll of Esther (megillah) should be read on Shushan Purim – and according to Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, his father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef z”tl, instituted the reading of the megillah in Jaffa and Tel Aviv on Shushan Purim.
Rabbi Yosef made the comments on a visit to the Shirat Moshe Yeshiva in Jaffa. Rabbi Yosef said that his late father had been, prior to become Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel in 1971, the Chief Rabbi of the city of Tel Aviv. During that time, he lived in the city – and while he would celebrate he first day of Purim, which included the reading of the megillah on Purim itself, he would also read the megillah on Shushan Purim.
According to the laws relating to the celebration of Shushan Purim, the megillah should be read in the remnants of ancient cities, as well as in new communities adjacent to the ancient towns – and that includes Tel Aviv. Although the elder Rabbi Yosef wrote about the matter in several of his commentaries on Jewish law, said Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, he did not instruct others to follow his lead, because of opinions among halakhic commentators (notably Rabbi David Azoulay, the Chida) that doing so was not required. However, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef chose to do so, his son said, to satisfy all opinions on the matter.
The Shirat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva - which combines Torah study and military service - was established six years ago, and has about 100 students. The yeshiva, along with several other Jewish educational institutions on the same street, are the spiritual center for the Jews of Jaffa, which has a large Arab and secular Jewish population. Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef praised the yeshiva and the students for their studies.
There are only a few communities which celebrate two days of Purim due to various halakhic doubts over their status as "walled cities from the era of Joshua". One such place is the Jewish town of Shiloh in Samaria (Shomron), which is located adjacent to the site of ancient Shiloh - the first capital city and spiritual center of the Tribes of Israel.