Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Purim Sameach!

March 24, 2016 text by Audrey Goldfarb, photos by Mark Fischer

Purim in Israel is a day of school vacation and NO TRAFFIC! We headed east toward the desert along the border that divided Jerusalem from '48 until '67. You no longer feel the divisions today, but tensions remain.

We arrived at the Inn of the Good Samaritan and met Lior, Natan's son, the archeologist instrumental in establishing this museum. Meryll set the tone by sharing a psalm that David may have written while hiding from King Saul. This exercise helped us imagine him being in the wilderness of the Judean Desert, hiding, lonely and terrified.

Why was this an important place? The site's biblical name was Ma'ale Addumim from the reddish color of the rocks. During King Herod's time it was a natural resting place in the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. The area was occupied from King Herod's time until the end of the Ottoman Empire.
Today it's an archeological site. The museum houses several reconstructed mosaic floors that were moved to the site due to unstable political conditions. Ninety-eight percent of the mosaics required reconstruction by hand using 1.7 million tiles. Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Samaritans each had their own mosaic floors, but often the same artisans were used.

Design motifs included vines, birds, vases, animals and the seven species of Israel (fig, olive, pomegranate, barley, wheat, date, and grape).

Next stop was Susan's House, a place where at risk teens find support and vocational art training. This is a project of Minneapolis Federation and JDC. Sixteen to eighteen year old participants are there by choice and commitment. Etti, a 21 year old alumna bravely shared her story of overcoming many obstacles. Her journey was a testament to her own personal strength and the power of Susan's House staff. We toured the workshop and purchased many of their art pieces.

We lunched in Talpiot. During our break Judy and Louise shopped for Purim costumes. One chose a red curly wig and the other a bright pink spiky wig. Can you guess which group member chose which wig?

Our next stop was the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Rabbi Davis shared Rabbi Larry Kushner's teaching which encouraged us to continue our journeys with an open heart and mind.

Frankie, an archeologist explained that during a Temple Mount construction project 400 dump trucks unloaded earth filled with artifacts into the Kidron Valley. Our job would be to carefully sift through this dirt one bucket full at a time and sort our findings into six categories: pottery shards, mosaics, metal, bones, glass and special stone. Toni found a sheep or goat mandible with teeth. Robyn hit the jackpot finding an ancient bronze coin possibly Roman or from the Second Temple period. We learned a new word, numismatist. This is a coin expert who will make the final identification.

We returned to the hotel where we prepared our costumes and rested. At 5:30 we boarded our bus to attend the Megillah reading at Natan's synagogue Kehilat Yaar Ramot. We were warmly welcomed by Rabbi Arne Bendor and the congregation. Natan introduced the mural created by his nephew artist, Aithan Shapira. This tryptic of trees native to Israel, olive, almond and pomegranate was made lovingly in memory of his grandparents.

Rabbi Davis led the congregation in Maariv. We enjoyed the Meggila reading as well as the congregant's costumes. Toni ably assumed the role of event photographer.

We returned to the hotel for dinner well before the kitchen was due to close. After Birkat HaMazon, Rabbi Davis left us with a teaching about Purim, likening it to a double sided coin which presents two faces, a king who can sentence the Jews to death and then saves them, and Queen Esther who hid the fact that she was Jewish. We are finding many hidden blessings here in Israel.

A few of us went on to party. The rest of us said good night and went to our rooms.


  1. Hi guys,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful article really!
    If someone want to know more about those Jewish art I think this is the right place for you!

  2. Thank you for your lovely words about Susan's House! For more information you can look at our website or our FB page susanshousejerusalem