Why Is­raelis like dress­ing as Zom­bies, and how Purim be­came glob­alised


CUTE CLOWNS and pretty Es­thers were out­num­bered by the walk­ing dead near Tel Aviv’s Dizen­goff Mall for Purim on Satur­day, as dozens of peo­ple con­gre­gated for the an­nual Zom­bie Walk.

Some of them were wear­ing the items that sup­pos­edly ended their lives, in­clud­ing dag­gers and barbed wire.

All over Is­rael, gory out­fits are pop­u­lar. Ev­ery party seems to have its blood­ied doctors and pa­tients with drips. And Is­raeli trauma ex­perts be­lieve that there may be some­thing slightly deeper go­ing on than sim­ple Purim fun.

“We have all sorts of ways of deal­ing with death, and maybe this is one of the ways,” said Soly Dre­man, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Ben Gu­rion Univer­sity and a lead­ing thinker on trauma and fam­ily life in Is­rael. “Maybe Purim gives peo­ple a cathar­tic op­por­tu­nity.”

Dr Dre­man noted that gory out­fits and zom­bie gath­er­ings are not only pop­u­lar in Is­rael, but said that they do ap­peal to a par­tic­u­lar strand of the Is­raeli psy­che, which is forced by war

and ter­ror to con­front the re­al­ity of tragic death.

Dr Dre­man stressed this was just one of sev­eral fac­tors that in­flu­ence Is­raeli dress­ing up styles.

Jef­frey Woolf, a his­to­rian and ex­pert on re­li­gious ob­ser­vance in Is­rael, sug­gests an­other: Purim dress­ing up is be­com­ing less and less uniquely Jewish. He re­mem­bers a day “when most peo­ple dressed as fig­ures from the Purim story or as sol­diers or Charedim, or as con­tem­po­rary lo­cal fig­ures like lit­tle Moshe Dayans and Me­nachem Be­gins”.

But the de­fault dress­ing-up style for any­one to­day who watches Amer­i­can films and soaps is Hal­loween­style, which is by na­ture gory. “It’s the side of glob­al­i­sa­tion that doesn’t re­spect lo­cal cul­ture,” said Pro­fes­sor Woolf, of Bar Ilan Univer­sity.

An­other Bar Ilan scholar, so­ci­ol­o­gist Nis­san Rubin, goes as far as to say that “there’s al­most no con­nec­tion” be­tween most out­fits and Purim.

He said: “It’s be­com­ing more and more in­ter­na­tional and you sel­dom see any of the sym­bols of Purim.” Pro­fes­sor Rubin said that to find a good clutch of Queen Es­thers, Aha­sueruses, or even Vashtis these days, you need to travel to a Charedi strong­hold like Bnei Brak.

He does not iden­tify any process of Is­raelis deal­ing with the harsh re­al­i­ties of their re­gion, just a com­bi­na­tion of most peo­ple buy­ing their out­fits in stores in­stead of mak­ing them and the fact that most of these out­fits on sale are for­eign im­ports, many of which are de­signed for the Hal­loween mar­ket. Some peo­ple still make cos­tumes, but when they do the style is led by the im­ports.

Dr Woolf, who is a rabbi as well as a pro­fes­sor, takes a slightly less de­tached view, say­ing that with the Hal­loween-isa­tion of Purim, “the tsunami of Western so­ci­ety is ba­si­cally wash­ing away our own mem­o­ries”.


The gore-fest in Tel Aviv last week­end

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