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As Purim approaches, Israel Forever Foundation director says 'We are living a repeat'; 'In each generation, the bloodline of hate' seeks 'the destruction of Jews'

IFF's Heideman tells Christian journalist Paul Calvert: Hamas is Israel's modern-day Haman

Destruction by Hamas terrorists at Kibbutz B'eri, southern Israel. Photo taken on December 19, 2023. (Photo: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The executive director of the Israel Forever Foundation (IFF), Dr. Elana Heideman, met with Christian journalist Paul Calvert of Bethlehem Voice to share her thoughts about the significance of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which begins on the eve of March 23.

Heideman leads the IFF, an organization that develops and promotes experiential learning opportunities to celebrate and strengthen the personal connection of the Jewish people to the nation of Israel. 

As a Jewish rights activist, she described how relevant the Purim holiday is in light of growing worldwide antisemitism since the Oct. 7 brutal terror attack by the Hamas terrorist organization on Israel, and the resulting war which is currently in its fifth month.

“Purim is the celebration of the Jews' survival of the attempt to annihilate them under Haman, who was the right hand man of King Ahasuerus, the king of Persia..." Heideman began, summarizing the story from the Book of Esther in the Old Testament.

The one-day holiday commemorates the survival of the Jewish people from a plot to exterminate all Jews during the reign of King Achashverosh (also known as King Xerxes) in Persia. The king’s advisor, Haman, becomes offended by Jewish rights defender Mordecai and comes up with a sinister plan to have all the Jews killed. The scheme is cleverly thwarted by the heroic actions of Queen Esther, Mordecai’s cousin who, under fortuitous circumstances, rises in royalty to become the king’s wife.

Haman’s evil plan is not only foiled but leads to his own demise and the victory of the Jews over their enemies. The festival of Purim, she said, is from the period when the Jews were living in exile after having been expelled from the land of Israel and Jerusalem,” she said.

Heideman, a historian and educator, clarified that Purim is not a biblical holiday per se, but rather a historical one, which is not only Jewish history but has "been documented by other cultures throughout history, as well."

Purim is a joyous festival marked by the public reading of the four chapters of the Book of Esther, or the Megillah, as well as re-enacting the story in a skit, dressing up in costumes, exchanging gifts, giving charity to the poor and festive meals, among other things.

The holiday's significance is particularly poignant this year in light of the Hamas terrorist organization's surprise invasion and brutal massacre of at least 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7. What should be a "joyous and happy holiday" celebrating how Jews outlasted the enemy's attempt, "yet again, to murder us off," this year will be a challenge because, she said, "...we are a country and a people in mourning."

Celebrating life while Israel’s hostages are still being held captive in Gaza by terrorists after five months is difficult, Heideman said.

“It's a very, very painful reality that the entire country is coping with, the entire of the Jewish people, and all human beings with a heart in the world,” she said.

On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists and their allies not only brutally killed and raped but kidnapped roughly 253 hostages from Israel into Gaza. Out of the initial group of 253 hostages, a total of 112 have been freed. At the time of this writing, reports estimate about 134 hostages remain in captivity, with roughly 100 of them believed to still be living. The remaining hostages consist of Israelis, dual nationals and foreign nationals.

The Jewish historian said she sees a clear parallel between the story of Purim and the events unfolding today, as well as the Hamas terrorist organization representing the biblical Amalek, considered to be the archenemy of the Israelites.

“In the Torah, we do learn about the importance of remembering Amalek. And this is the body of people who came chasing after the Israelites after they had been freed from slavery in Egypt. And they intentionally targeted the young, the elderly, the women. And Amalek is not one group of people. It is in each generation, the bloodline of hate that goes through all peoples who seek the blood of Jews, who seek the destruction of Jews.”

Heideman discussed the significance of the Jewish people recounting the story of Purim every year and remembering that each of us has a role to play in God's plan for the Jewish people.

Early in the Book of Esther, Mordecai says to his cousin, who has remarkably just been chosen by King Ahasuerus to replace Queen Vashti: ‘Maybe it was for this that you were born.’

Heideman told Calvert: “I think each one of us right now – living in a post-October 7th world – are forced to say: ‘For what are we born and what can we do as human beings in a world where inhumane behaviors are being excused? For what are we born? For what are we on this earth?”

The Jewish rights activist was unapologetic about the IDF’s current military strategy in Gaza, as it seeks to eliminate the Hamas terrorist organization. She said unequivocally that her heart goes out to the innocent in Gaza, however, “if you’ve allowed terror to grow amongst you, then you have to understand you will suffer the consequences, as well. Just as any community under Nazism - or other ‘isms’ in previous generations - and Palestinian-ism, the Hamas-ism - all of these extreme ‘isms ‘are very, very dangerous to us.

During the interview with Calvert, Heideman shared some of the popular traditions around Purim, aside from reading the Megillah. She said Jews will eat cookies called 'hamantaschen' baker in the shape of the ears of the evil Haman, who seeks the destruction of Jews in the Book of Esther. She noted that this year, some have renamed “Hamas-taschen.” The Purim celebration also employs the use of "noisemakers" (usually toys) as Jews recall the story of how God saved the people of Israel through Queen Esther. with the encouragement of her cousin Mordechai.

Heideman told Calvert that while Purim is meant to be a time to turn sorry into joy, because the nation of Israel has been in a state of mourning since Oct. 7, Israeli celebrations will look somewhat different in 2024.

The Israeli government has prohibited the use of fireworks this year, a common tradition during the celebration, along with a costume parade.

Fireworks will not be allowed, she explained, “because of the tremendous amount of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), not only of our soldiers but actually of the citizens themselves – because of the ongoing sirens and missile fire all throughout the country.”

The war in Gaza in Israel’s south and the conflict with Hezbollah terror forces in Israel’s north have led to the displacement of nearly 65,000 residents from their communities. Many of these families are living in hotels or temporary housing, having been evacuated from their homes until the threat is eliminated.

Heideman feels that what is happening in Israel today is “very much a spiritual battle."

“I think that not only is it a spiritual battle for all of humanity, I think it's a spiritual battle for Jews, in particular, who are struggling wherever they live in the world on how do they sustain a Jewish identity, if perhaps, maybe they don't understand correctly the conflict that we're facing.

The Jewish advocate highlighted the situation for Jews outside of Israel, saying that they have been greatly impacted by what happened on Oct. 7, most notably a surge in global antisemitism.

“They feel that hate is rising against them everywhere,” she said. “Jews are being forced and reminded – even those who thought they were assimilated – that they are Jews” regardless of their color, where they live and what they do for a living.”

She said that the spiritual battle for Jews today involves “a battle for Jewish destiny and the destiny of the continued existence of a people.”

“So some Jews are finding themselves religion again. They're going back to synagogues, or they're finding it just within their families because they're not confident to go to synagogues,” she said, quoting that there have been at least 178 bomb threats on synagogues in the U.S. since Oct. 7.

The spiritual battle for humanity is on the line, Heideman added, and that one must either “choose good and you choose to stand with Israel, or you stand with the rapists. That's it. It's got to be that simple!”

“Either you stand with Israel and you stand with the Jews, or be cursed. And that's what's going to happen as history continues to unfold,” Heideman added.

While the rise in antisemitism doesn’t surprise the Heideman, she told Calvert that she was surprised (and finds it shameful) at how quickly Jewish hate spread across the world, particularly among what she called “moderate groups,” and the “calls for the genocide of Jews – openly in the streets with no consequence.”

Heideman said to those who claim Israel’s war in Gaza against Hamas is a genocide of Palestinian civilians: “The numbers do not at all support any such claim. We know that the facts do not support any such claim," adding that it is important to "recognize what is propaganda and what is fact."

“By the way, who tells the world, ‘We're going to take this military action? We have taken this military action?...’ she added.

“They (IDF) are so transparent and yet even when we give truth, evidence, visual evidence, recordings, the Gaza aid...The facts are there but because it's Jews, people are not willing to stand behind the need to defend them.”

Heideman, who lives in Israel, said she feels safer as a Jew in Israel than anywhere else in the world. On her recent trip to the U.S. with her children, she saw more supporters of Gaza than of Israel.

“Jews are having conversations with their neighbors: ‘Would you hide me if the need arose? I think that more Jews need to be learning self-defense. At Israel Forever, we have a program called “Israel Strong" – trying to encourage people to learn the lessons from Israel.”

She believes every Israeli has some form of fear right now, not necessarily from the missile fire but because of the shooting and stabbing attacks in the streets and fear that terrorists could ‘tear open’ the gates from across the border, once again, and infiltrate local communities.

Since Oct. 7, she said: “There is not a mother or a father right now, who does not have nightmares every night thinking, ‘Who could be coming in and what would they be doing to us?’

“Our Jewish rights are worth something ... We don't want to believe that it could get worse, but I think we all kind of know that it's also very hard to stop what has begun right now.”

In her opinion, Heideman said that God will deal with Hamas.

"I think that God is allowing Israel to be his hand of action to deal with Hamas."

“I don't believe all of Hamas will be entirely wiped out because of how effective they have been in their propaganda schemes, and using the thousands-year-old traditional antisemitic tropes to feed the next generation of Jew-hatred. Whether or not they will be under the politicized name of Hamas as the organization, I don't know, but they will regurgitate themselves in some new form.”

"It says in the Torah: ‘And Hamas will be wiped out from your land.’ And in the morning when we pray one of our prayers, it says, ‘And we should wipe all Hamas out of our land.’”

Heideman continued: “We should not be impacted by Hamas. It is a term from the Bible that the Arab world took upon themselves as a legitimate name. It just happens to be the word for ‘evil.’ So will God deal with Hamas? He is using [them] just like you know, God used Mordecai and Esther to enact his will.’

Turning to Israeli politics, Heideman said about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I don't care how you feel about him – nobody loves Bibi Netanyahu right now – but put your feelings aside, and think – in an almost biblical sense – every country needs a leader”...who can “stand strong and be a hand of God.”

“Do I think that Bibi is a hand of God? No,” she added. “But he's a conduit, just like Moses once was. And I'm not comparing, God forbid, Bibi and Moses. I'm only saying in every generation, if an Amalek rises, also, there has to be a leader who has to bear the brunt of the challenges faced in fighting for the spiritual survival of humanity.”

“Just because Israel is dropping the bombs, doesn’t mean we are 'the evil.' We are uprooting evil,” she added.

There are at least 134 Israeli hostages still being held captive by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, 25% of them are already confirmed dead.

Heideman’s prayer for the Purim holiday, which begins at sundown on Saturday evening, is “that we will have a miracle and have our hostages come home. I don't believe there's anybody who has any other prayer right now. I know we all have more prayers than that...”

She added: “We want our soldiers home safely; we want the world to wake up to our desire for peace.

“Peace is not owned by one side of this conflict. If anything, peace really – historically – has been shown to be the one desire of the Jewish people.”

Heideman said as Purim approaches, she hopes “our hostages will come home, that the hearts of those who are aching shall be soothed, and that this war be brought to an end by the world calling for the surrender of Hamas immediately, and that they should be held accountable for war crimes in international courts.”

The Israel Forever Foundation helps people understand Israel as a nation and a people, its history and its destiny beyond the current conflict. Click here to learn how you can become a virtual citizen of Israel.

Click below to listen to the full interview.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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