Campaign Takes the Lessons of Purim to Make the “Old City” Young Again

“The same days on which the Yehudim enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” Esther 9:22 (The Israel Bible™)

Jews are often reminded – from liturgy to songs and rituals – to never forget Jerusalem. The Jewish people are additionally reminded of the centrality of Jerusalem through particularly Jerusalem-focused holidays.

On Passover, at the end of the traditional meal as well as at the end of Yom Kippur services, Jews say “Next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem.” On the 9th of Av, Jews fast to mourn the destructions of the Temples in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. But few know that Purim, the joyous festival celebrating God’s miraculous deliverance of the People of Israel from their enemies, is also a fundamentally Jerusalem-focused holiday. Indeed, Purim is all about Jerusalem.

Children play in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Courtesy Ateret Cohanim)

In the story of Purim, the Jews of Persia chose not to go back to Jerusalem or rebuild the Temple in the 5th century BCE -hence, their evil enemy Haman threatened them with physical destruction. Despite the poor decision of the Jews of Persia, God worked behind the scenes, and between Queen Esther and Mordechai, the Jewish people survived. Jews commemorate this great miracle by reading the story (Megilat Esther), eat Hamentashen (triangular, ear-shaped cookies) enjoy a festive family meal with sacramental wine, send gifts to friends (Mishloach Manot) and give to the poor (Matanot L’evyonim) every Purim.

As a reminder of Jerusalem’s centrality to the story of Purim, the holiday, “Shushan Purim” is celebrated on a different day in Jerusalem than it is celebrated in every other city in the world. This year, Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem on Friday, March 22 – the day after the holiday is celebrated everywhere else.

To affirm the centrality of Jerusalem in the Purim story and ensure that they do not make the same mistakes as the ancient Jews of Persia who abandoned Jerusalem, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim / Jerusalem Chai is launching a Purim Crowdfunding campaign. They aim to raise $10,000 for the “true pioneers of Jerusalem” – the courageous Jewish families who have chosen to raise their children in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

The Ateret Cohanim organization in Israel works to legally re-purchase and resettle Jewish families in historically Jewish homes in the so called “Muslim Quarter.” Each Old City property being resettled is supported by legal documents proving that Jews were original owners and forced out of their homes that were later to be inhabited by illegal Palestinian squatters.

According to Shani Hikind, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, supporting these Jews in this area is a very ‘Purim’ mission. “Ateret Cohanim exists at the forefront of Jerusalem causes to reclaim Jewish Jerusalem. Our mission is to bring Jews back to the areas surrounding the Temple Mount, where there has been a Jewish presence over the last two millennia.”

But Ateret Cohanim’s work does not end there. Even after fulfilling the dream of relocating as close as possible to the holiest place in the world for Jews – the Temple Mount – life is not easy for Jewish families living in the Muslim Quarter. Neighboring Muslims, who are told by their leaders that the Jews are stealing the properties away from them, often threaten and harass the Jewish families on a daily basis.  American Friends has documented over 1,700 attacks in the last year alone.

Funds from American Friends of Ateret Cohanim’s Purim crowdfunding campaign will go to brighten the Purim holiday for the Jewish families who live in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Funds will go to support the projects that Ateret Cohanim / Jerusalem Chai leads there, including the children’s programs and rooftop playgrounds, built in response to daily harassment, stones, rocks and even molotov cocktails thrown at the children. The funds from American Friends of Ateret Cohanim / Jerusalem Chai have been helping these families build safe and protected playgrounds that are unfortunately necessary for the children’s safety. Hikind explains, “Because of the security situation, rooftop playgrounds, day care centers, nurseries and play centers are central to the children’s joy, life and future in Jerusalem.”

Hikind, speaking for everyone at American Friends of Ateret Cohanim / Jerusalem Chai, wished the Jewish people a happy Purim, inviting “all who care about Jerusalem and her children  to join the mission of making the Old City young again.” “Tour with us,” Hikind said and “be a part of the miracle of Jerusalem, the united, never to be divided, capital of Israel and the Jewish people.”

To donate to American Friends of Ateret Cohanim’s Purim campaign, click here.

Written in collaboration with American Friends of Ateret Cohanim / Jerusalem Chai