Not long ago, we celebrated Purim. Purim is a holiday that comes to commemorates the defeat of Haman HaAgagi, who plotted to kill all the Jews in ancient Persia, only because one Jew, Mordehai, refused to kneel in front of him (the full value about the holiday can be found here).
During the holiday, I visited Bnei-Brak, which is a city in Israel, that most of its inhabitants are orthodox. Well, what can I tell you, it was quite an experience…
There were many people in the streets, going anywhere. Some were in groups, some in pairs. Many of them were singing and\or laughing, but mostly – having fun.
There are several mitzvot in Purim – some of them relate to food (such as the mitzvah to do mishloah manot, which is to send at least 2 different kinds of food to others, by that, helping them to celebrate the holiday as well), another is to read the megilah, that tells the story of Esther, Ahasuerus, Mordehai, Haman and Vashti.
In addition, there are several customs such as donating money to the poor, to wear costumes, and more. One of the customs in Purim, is to lose the ability to distinguish between Haman (the bad guy in the story) and Mordehai (the good guy). In Hebrew it’s called adloyada. In orthodox circles, there are people who tend to do it by drinking alcohol.
When I walked in the streets on Bnei-Brak, I could easily notice the men who followed that mitzvah and drank. One couldn’t miss the smell of alcohol coming from them. A very few even held bottles of alcohol of some sort (wine, whiskey etc.) in their hand.
The holiday and the alcohol affected their behavior. Never ever before in my life, I was hugged or petted so much (or at all…) by other men, needless to say by orthodox men (the value of modesty [in the sexual meaning of the word] takes a huge place in their life, and homosexual intercourse is prohibited). The only comparison that comes in mind for such a behavior, is of a nun performing a striptease act…
Most of the people in the street weren’t drunk, not even remotely, even though everybody were happy and celebrated the holiday. There was chaos in the streets, but one with a “good vibe” (Purim is the only holiday in which they loosen up for a split of a second. In the rest of the year, they live according to strict rules).
All in all, the visit was a unique experience and I’m waiting to do it again next year.