A heartbeat away – Purim in Mea Shearim

Mea Shearim, Hundred gates, in Hebrew is crowded neighborhood in the center of Jerusalem home to ultraorthodox Jews. While only a few minutes from downtown it feels like centuries away. Today’s blog will not disscuss all aspects of this fascinating place but will describe a visit during the holiday of Purim. This holiday is one big carnival and in no place it seems to be celebrated in more earnest then here.

Mea Shearim feels always very chaotic, but in fact it is ruled by rather strict internal laws. In Purim however the place is genuinely chaotic. This has the added bonus that locals are much more open and friendly towards visitors from planet earth than usual. Having said that, when showing appropriate respect and sensitivity, people are usually friendly and welcoming. I have photographed there during various holidays in the past and never experienced hostility. Photography does not seem to be considered a blasphemy any longer, some of the blessing of the digital age.

Purim is commemorated in memory of genocide plot, which went wrong and had a happy end. It is celebrated by dressing up, by eating special food, by reading the story of the Purim, called the scroll of Esther and by sending parcels of delicacies to friends and to the poor.







These presumably three siblings represent the day to day life for girls in Mea Shearim. Girls are married off very young (well not as young as here of course) and have to take care of their small siblings from a young age.



For the unfamiliar observer it might come as a surprise that only the baby is dressed up. The father dresses like this year round.Image



This girl holds a rattle that is used to make noise every time the name of wicked Haman is mentioned during the reading of the scroll.Image


A rather original dress – representing the tree used to hang wicked Haman.Image


The traditional Purim cookies – Haman ears (or Haman’s taschen) – pastry filled with poppy seads.Image


The walls of Mea Shearim are plastered with “pashkevils” announcements of political and religious massages. Much of the local politics is performed by this method. The print is usually huge and the language equally bombast.Image


Most families don’t have TV and internet is also shunned by some of the groups.  I didn’t see any kids dressed as superheroes but spongebob seems to be OK.Image


Instead of TV the balconies or windows provide enough entertainment, especially on a day like this.Image













Or sitting on the stairs can do



This clown asked me to take his picture.



Families in Mea Shearim have many many childres, a dozen isn’t rare. Mothers pushing prams is therefore a very common sight.




The eyes of the mother, the eyes of the daughters.













2 thoughts on “A heartbeat away – Purim in Mea Shearim

  1. צילומים משובחים, מיכאל. השכונות החרדיות הן תמיד אתר צילומים משובח.
    אתה מוזמן להציץ בבלוג שלי, “הערות שוליים להיסטוריה”.
    יש בו גם היסטוריה וגם מסעות מצולמים.
    רפי מן

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