Israeli Police urge armed guards in every synagogue on Purim

The police are preparing to deploy thousands of officers, particularly in the Old City of Jerusalem


Ultra-Orthodox Jews celebrate Purim in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood, on March 8, 2023. - The carnival-like Purim holiday is celebrated with parades and costume parties to commemorate the deliverance of the Jewish people from a plot to exterminate them in the ancient Persian empire 2,500 years ago, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

(JNS) At least one armed guard should be present in every synagogue in Israel during Sunday and Monday’s Purim holiday, as the terror threat across the country remains high amid the war with Hamas, Deputy Commissioner Sigal Bar-Zvi, head of the Israel Police’s Operations Division, said on Thursday.

“The goal is that in all synagogues, there will be security guards, as well as trained and armed volunteers who know how to identify a [terrorist] threat, respond swiftly and thwart it,” Bar-Zvi told reporters at a briefing.

In addition, “synagogues have been mapped in the police districts, and there will be increased security patrols—prepared and ready for quickly pursuing contact [with potential terrorists] and neutralizing,” she noted.

The police are preparing to deploy thousands of officers, particularly in the Old City of Jerusalem, around synagogues and at other large public gatherings, such as Purim holiday parades.

According to Bar-Zvi, “the combination between the threats of war and terrorism, and safety risks such as overcrowding, is particularly complex and requires the cooperation and understanding of the general public, in addition to the police effort.”

She urged the public to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity.

Purim celebrates the Jewish people’s deliverance in the Persian Empire during the 5th century. The biblical Scroll of Esther describes how the Persian viceroy, Haman the Agagite, plotted to annihilate the Jews. Through miraculous events, the Jews survived—and Haman ended up hanging on the gallows he had erected for his Jewish arch-enemy Mordechai.

Jewish law states that while most places celebrate Purim on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar, which this year falls out on March 24, cities that were surrounded by walls during Joshua’s conquest of the Land of Israel—primarily Jerusalem—observe the festival a day later.

On Monday, the holy city will host its first Purim parade in more than four decades, despite the five-month-old war with Hamas in Gaza. The kilometer-long parade will include 30 floats and seven musical stages.

The last Purim parade in Jerusalem was held in 1982. Monday’s event comes as 134 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, including 70 to 100 people believed to be alive.

The joyful Purim processions held across Israel are called “Adloyadas,” shorthand for the Aramaic phrase in the Talmud describing the commandment to drink and make merry as part of the holiday.

However, following a meeting with the families of some of the hostages, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion agreed to call the parade “United Purim.” A spokesperson for the parade told local media on Thursday that there would also be fewer performances and the volume would be lowered.

Ahead of the holiday, Israel’s Education Ministry warned of “panic-inducing costumes,” urging parents and teachers to make sure children avoid wearing Purim outfits “that may cause fear, panic or injury.”

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