A light accumulation of snow is expected in high elevation areas across Israel on Tuesday – which just happens to be the day that schoolchildren would be celebrating the springtime holiday of Purim at their schools.
If snow reaches the ground in the coming days – covering the Holy Land – it would be Israel’s first white Purim since the 1980’s.
With this rare cold snap and predictions of snow – and temperatures ranging between 33°F (1°C) to 36°F (2°C), according to local weather reports – threatening to cancel school on Tuesday, the Ministry of Education made a last-minute decision to move up their school celebrations to today.
Most Israeli schools celebrate the holiday with a festive party and students (and even some teachers) wear costumes, according to tradition. Schools are closed on the official holiday on Thursday.
"This year we will celebrate Purim in schools one day earlier," Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion announced yesterday. “This is due to the expected stormy weather, and maybe even snow. However, we will not disappoint our children and we will celebrate the holiday with costumes and joy."
As our readers might imagine, this spontaneous decision threw some parents (including yours truly) and kids into a panic, scrambling to complete costumes and purchase gift baskets – typically filled with candy and traditional cookies – to bestow upon all-too-eager recipients.
Despite the added stress, the Ministry of Education decision enabled Israeli kids to enjoy one of the year's most joyous holidays. Last year, the Israeli government imposed curfews during Purim in an attempt to curtail the spread of COVID – a decision not warmly received by its constituents, who enjoy making merry and partying in costume.
In advance of the expected stormy weather, Jerusalem is preparing emergency services to respond to any scenario, including salting roads to prevent ice from forming.
Purim, which officially begins on Wednesday at sundown, is a biblical holiday based on the Book of Esther. Jews remember the brave, young Jewish woman in Persia who became queen and – along with her savvy Uncle Mordechai – disclosed the evil plot of the enemy and saved her people from destruction.
It is a season of celebration in modern-Israel, just as it was for the Jews in Persia (modern-day Iran) during Esther’s time. Aside from dressing in costumes, many people take part in a traditional – often dramatic – reading of the entire Book of Esther in synagogues, where participants acknowledge the ancient victory over the enemy with God's help. When Haman's name is mentioned, the crowd noisily shouts out loud, "Boo!"
In line with the tradition, bakeries and households alike will make triangular cookies called Hamantaschen, also known as 'oznei haman' – Haman's ears – in Israel, twisted strips of fried dough made to look like the ears of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, and infused with various sweet fillings.
Esther is the only biblical book in which God’s name is not explicitly mentioned, however, we see God’s sovereign hand throughout the narrative as He – in His ever-present love and mercy – takes what the enemy (Haman) meant for evil and redeems it for something good.
These days, as global anti-Semitism is surging and as the Iranian threat to wipe Israel off the map remains a harsh reality, the story is a fitting reminder that we are to keep our eyes up and continue praying for God’s protection over the Jewish people and nation from their modern-day enemies.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.