In the desire to fill my column with positive Jews’ stories (in the face of so many miserable ones) I see that Purim rated very favourably in the secular awareness count this year.
Purim has become cool. Even Madonna was reported as attending a Purim party. The Material Girl went for a Game of Thrones outfit, dressing up as Daenerys Targaryen, complete with little dragons on her shoulder. (mazel tov to her — it’s a rocking costume).
The Daily Mail published a long piece depicting Jews around the globe celebrating the ancient festival complete with gorgeous pictures from Stamford Hill, New York, Jerusalem and Romania, of smiling tiny tots in full dressing-up regalia.
The Mail showed Jews in an even more positive light by highlighting the diversity of our small but “happening” world community by publishing camp photos of Tel Aviv’s gay community embracing Purim party fever.
What a multi-stranded community you Jews are part of, it seemed to say. And then to add a further touch of glamour, Israeli super model Bar Refaeli appeared in the world’s media attending her Purim party dressed in a stripy yellow tiger costume, all the while looking impossibly beautiful.
The finer points of Purim have always eluded me. I know it’s another one of our “they tried to kill us/they failed/let’s eat” festivals, but the details have never firmly etched themselves in my mind. Except for Esther. Everyone knows about Esther.
So having Wikipedia-ed “the Festival of Deliverance” I am now on a mission to make Purim as much part of the zeitgeist as Chanucah has become. I deem it a feminist festival. It is female-led and highlights the worst traits of the male psyche, weakness, misogyny and the corruption of power.
I will make a film casting (and watch the segue here) Madonna as Queen Vashti and Bar Refaeli as Esther. Vashti the beautiful, cruel, ageing Queen to a tyrannical, child-man King (Jared Leto) who wants to party incessantly and drink with his friends while ogling women and making crass antisemitic edicts on the advice of his Iago-type adviser Haman (Liam Neeson).
Frustrated by being diminished to only her looks, Vashti-Madonna vents her frustration on the weakest around her, the Jewish slaves. But in a final moment of defiance against her objectification she stands up to her husband and his drunken mates.
“No!” Madonna declares. “I will not parade in front of you all in my underwear. I may be a Material Girl in a conical bra, but on my terms only”. Ok. So she’s executed, but good on her.
Reluctant Second Wife Bar Refaeli (Esther) learns from the former Mrs Queen A’s mistakes and adopts the other end of female persuasion. Quietly, determinedly, with eyes cast shyly to the ground, she manipulates and subverts from within.
She saves her race, gets rid of the baddy and in my movie, she sends the King to Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous.