Jewish Halloween: On Dressing in Drag in the Holy Land

During the month of March, should you suddenly find yourself surrounded by a bunch of young girls who are dressed up like Catwoman, you may well have stumbled into a Purim street party. The Jewish version of Halloween, Purim is a minor holiday that commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian empire from the wicked Prime Minister Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther.

Events revolving around Purim celebrate customs associated with the holiday, including the drinking of wine or any other alcoholic beverage and the wearing of masks and costumes in public.


People wear zombie make-up and outfits for the 2016 Zombie Walk Day Edition in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, March 25, 2016. The Jewish holiday of Purim commemorates the Jews’ salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Before I go into my rant, allow me to first note that there is no Jewish holiday that evokes such unbridled joy as Purim, one of the most widely celebrated festivals in Israel. The best part about the holiday is that it uniquely transcends geography, socioeconomic status and religious background. During Purim, everyone, from Jerusalem’s Bible thumping ultra-Orthodox Jews in their severe black suits and hats to Tel Aviv’s latte-sipping secular hipsters, artists and hi-tech entrepreneurs, is out there celebrating – if not together, than at least simultaneously.

My beef with this national day of dressing up in amazing Technicolor costumes, hitting the clubs and getting just a wee bit toasty is that I’m a 43-year-old father of four children under the age of five who has to wake up at 5:30, shave, shower and grind out another eight hours in an office doused in hellish fluorescent lighting. Such is the nature of minor holidays: businesses are pretty much open as usual and people work.

But that’s only the half of it. I don’t miss my wild and crazy single days – which were rather mild and lazy if memory serves – one single bit. Though I am not a religious person, I am blessed to have married up, to a woman of grace, elegance, good humor, easy charm, unusual compassion and unforced beauty. As such, I have no desire to relive those nights of binge drinking, dry heaving and waking up in low places.

Rather, the revulsion I feel towards Israel’s Purim, as I did toward Halloween when I lived in the United States, is based on the fact that every year I have to endure the site of middle-aged colleagues coming to work dressed like hookers, bikers and the occasional superhero.

Call me an uptight, unliberated white guy, but I actually can’t even remember the last time I put on a costume. And while I can’t back up the following suspicion with an iota of evidence, I maintain that when your company’s CEO suddenly goes from wearing standard button-down shirts, slacks and loafers to prancing around the office watercooler dressed like Marilyn Monroe, well Mrs. CEO may want to consider reactivating her membership on

And so, this Purim, just in Halloweens past, I will be the only one to dare come to work dressed as, of all things, an employee. A good friend mine tried to convince me to not take getting dressed up so seriously. “Just do what I do and pencil in a mustache. You don’t want to become known as the office buzzkill,” he sagely advised.

Maybe that’s what I’ll do. Perhaps something as simple as a little Charlie Chaplin moustache above my lip will convey the message that I’m generally sociable, yet not desperate to socialize.

Thing is, in the hyper politicized world we live in, Chaplin could well be mistaken for Hitler, in which case about half the office will think that I dressed up as Donald Trump…

Or maybe I’ll just burn a sick day…



Check out other essays by Gidon Ben-Zvi that have been published by Newsmax.

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