Since we are in a religious neighborhood, Purim in Israel was…strikingly like Cleveland Heights! There were plenty of minor differences, but the one that stands out the most to me is that they did not provide groggers at any of the readings, at least not the ones I went to. You had to come with your own, or else bang the table (which many people did).
I took Rafi to a children’s party at shul where they had hired a clown who led the children in dances (which Rafi did not participate in) and playing parachute (which he did). It was so cute to see him in his little dragon costume disappearing underneath the parachute. After that they did a five-minute megillah reading to give all the kids the chance to shake the groggers (which they did provide this time).
After that I went to a women’s megillah reading, not the kind where a man reads for the women who were watching children during the main one, but an actual women’s reading where women are reading. I read Chapter 9. Two of the readers were young girls, maybe 12 or 13, and I was enthralled to hear their young voices reading so beautifully. It sounds cheesy but it’s true. One read with Sephardic trope, and it sounded so lovely. I very rarely hear anything Sephardic in a female voice (except by listening to women sing along in the ezrat nashim). The only time, I think, was when I was at a Sephardic family’s house for the Tu B’shevat seder, and the women were singing all kinds of songs for Tu B’shevat and a nice melody for Shirat Hayam (since it was also Shabbat Shirah).
Some of our friends in the Fulbright cohort reported hearing the megillah read in a park (in Mercaz Hacarmel, I think) in the middle of a huge balagan all over the place. That sounded pretty cool. I am thinking it would have been neat, from a cultural perspective, to experience Purim among secular Israelis (and I’m sure the one in the park was attended by a secular crowd, because after seeing how silent and attentive everyone was at shul, I can’t imagine that they would want to hold the reading at a party in the park where you might God forbid miss a few words here and there amidst all the balagan. There are several late megillah readings scheduled so that parents can take turns watching the children who are not yet old enough to be silent for 45 minutes. I guess this is probably not unique to Israel, but I’d never been to Purim at an orthodox synagogue before).
Today I helped Jeff get a haircut, which wasn’t as disastrous as I thought it would be. I was worried that I wouldn’t have the vocabulary, but I shouldn’t have been because after all, there are only so many ways to cut hair. I learned the words for “clippers” (מכונה, same word as appliance, apparently) and “razor” (סכין, same word as knife, apparently). It was the fastest haircut I have ever seen but looks decent, and anyway he followed our instructions.
I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things here. Our apartment is starting to feel like home again. It really didn’t the first few days, especially when I was lost in the dark the first night. How it happened is our hallway has a left turn, and if you go straight, you go into the second bedroom.
Jet lag is harder for me this time. Rafi is somehow having no trouble. To illustrate, here’s an anecdote from our second night back. We were both awake in the middle of the night, lying in bed. I was getting restless and bored, and I saw that Rafi’s eyes were open, so I thought I’d offer to read to him.
“Rafi, are you awake or asleep?” I asked.
“Asleep,” he answered. Hmm, really?
I decided to take his word for it and got out of bed to enjoy some quiet hours to myself!