The Jewish holiday of Purim takes place this weekend. Officially it begins Saturday, March 11 and ends Sunday, March 12, although in Israel celebrations are getting under way today and are expected to run through Sunday–and it is reported that this year a number of Israeli children are dressing up as Elor Azaria.
If the name rings a bell, it should. Elor Azaria is the Israeli soldier who last year executed a wounded Palestinian with a bullet to the head.
The man Azaria murdered was Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, who had been shot after an alleged stabbing attack against an Israeli soldier. Al-Sharif, severely wounded, was lying prostrate upon the street when Azaria stepped up and fired a gunshot to his head. The incident, which took place in the West Bank city of Hebron, was captured on video–a video that subsequently went viral around the world and led to Azaria’s arrest.
Azaria clearly carried out a deliberate act of cold-blooded murder, but in Israel he has been elevated to the status of national hero, and according to a report here, children in the Jewish state are adopting costumes designed to look like him as they observe this year’s Purim holiday. There is a special significance to this: Azaria’s execution of al-Sharif took place on Purim of 2016. This is something I noted in a post I put up on March 25 last year, one day after the holiday had ended. At that time, Azaria’s name had not yet been released to the media, but the video had already begun to go viral, and as I noted:
The video shows a group of soldiers and medics standing around Abdul Sharif, lying prone and incapacitated on the street, with one of the soldiers stepping up and pumping a bullet into his head.
That as I say took place on Purim of last year. In the intervening months in Israel we have seen a trial in which Azaria was convicted of manslaughter–not murder–and sentenced to 18 months, as well as large public protests in support of the killer. And now here we are a year later. Here is what is being reported about this year’s Purim celebration:
This year for Purim, many Israeli children are dressing up as Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting a neutralized terrorist [sic] in Hebron almost a year ago. “I’m not saying that he did the right thing but in my eyes he is a hero,” stated one grandmother of such a child. “He took the initiative. His commanders weren’t around, the scene wasn’t managed properly and he took command.”
During the weekend, a costume competition for Elor Azaria will take place. The creator Ran Karmi Buzaglo has promised the participants prizes such as guitars, tickets to an amusement park and to a safari. “I urge people to dress up like Elor as a statement,” Buzaglo stated. “He’s a fighter and was sent to protect us and I’m proud to see children dressing up like him.
Some of the prizes were donated by citizens who heard about the initiative. One man even volunteered to make 300 face masks of the convicted soldier. “I think that these masks teach our children about the military,” he said.
A very innocuous and politically correct description of what the holiday of Purim is all about is given by Wikipedia:
Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. This took place in the ancient Persian Empire. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther.
In reality, however, the holiday is a celebration of the slaughter of thousands of Gentiles. Here is what the Book of Esther has to say on the topic:
In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men. They also killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews.But they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
The number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day. The king said to Queen Esther, “The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.”
“If it pleases the king,” Esther answered, “give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day’s edict tomorrow also, and let Haman’s ten sons be impaled on poles.”
So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they impaled the ten sons of Haman. The Jews in Susa came together on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they put to death in Susa three hundred men, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder. This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.
So according to the text, more than 75,000 people were killed. And this is what led the Jews to mark it as “a day of feasting and joy.” And that is how it is celebrated today in Israel. Here is what an Israeli tourist site has to say about contemporary Purim celebrations in the Jewish state:
Purim is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in Israel. Purim in Israel is embraced by the whole country, from religious Jews in Jerusalem to secular Tel Avivians, it is a time of festivity and celebrated far beyond its original religious roots. Purim parties take place across Israel, with Purim street parties with carnival atmospheres taking place in almost every city, town and village in the country. Purim is also one of the biggest nights of the year at clubs up and down the country. With so much going on, and so much color in the amazing costumes that can be seen, Purim in Israel is a fascinating time to be in the country.
You can also go here and read a Chabad report about Purim celebrations in 91 other countries around the world, including here in the United States. Here is what it says about a Purim event scheduled for Saturday night in Los Angeles:
Roll out the red carpet and bring on the paparazzi: Rabbi Mendel Simons, director of the Young Jewish Professionals in Los Angeles, is getting ready to host an Oscars-worthy evening on Saturday night. He and his wife, YJP co-director Rachael Simons, plan to welcome a whopping 600 people to the upscale Continental Club for a night of Purim festivities themed around Hollywood of yore. The event is being co-hosted by Moshe and Rivky Greenwald, co-directors of Chabad of Downtown Los Angeles.
Reading the above kind of makes you wonder why we’ve never seen a Hollywood movie depicting the Esther story. Of course, the movie would have to end with the slaughter of thousands of Gentiles and the subsequent Jewish celebrations–a denouement that might result in moviegoers leaving theaters feeling a tad bit disquieted.