Purim in Mea Shearim – Jerusalem

Posted: March 10, 2012 in Street Photography
Tags: , , ,

Jerusalem Again

One week past from my last visit to snowy Jerusalem and I’m back in Jerusalem to celebrate Purim, this time is sunny and warm weather.

While the conventional festivities were held at the city center and throughout the country, on place stands out in its uniqueness. Mea Shearim in Jerusalem.

Mea Shearim (100 Gates) is one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Israel. It is populated mainly by Haredi Jews (very orthodox). the neighborhood seems like stuck in time back in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.

I’ve visited Mea Shearim about five months ago on the eve of Yum Kippur to document the controversial ceremony of Kaparot and decided to come back here for Purim as it features some controversial traditions as well.

Like the neighborhood that is frozen in time, same goes for the celebrations that keeps the old traditions of giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, a celebratory meal, and public recitation of the Scroll of Esther, additions to the prayers and the grace after meals.

Other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration.

Street Photography by Sagi-K

Street Photography by Sagi-K

The morning starts with reading the Scroll of Esther and once it’s done the drinking and celebrating take over. The drinking part is taken seriously and by noon, kids and adults alike are roaming the narrows street of the neighborhood completely drunk.

Another controversial activity is smoking, you’ll find kids as old as 10 years old smoking on the streets as part of the celebrations.

Street Photography by Sagi-K

Street Photography by Sagi-K

The costumes are mostly old fashioned and mostly composed of biblical figures which yet again reminds me my naive childhood.

Street Photography by Sagi-K

Street Photography by Sagi-K

  1. A wind says:

    great video and great photos!
    congratulations on the new blog


  2. kaie w. bird says:

    I was just wondering how you were able to take these photos without upsetting those your were photographing? I ask because I have also tried to take photos, but it never seems to work. Maybe being a woman doesn’t help in that area, but these are really personally shot photos and I am just wondering how you were able to capture such great shots with willing subjects in that area of Jerusalem.

    • Hello Kaie,
      I guess it is a bit harder for women to photograph in that area although there were quite a few women photographers there at the same time that I was. I think that men have more access especially to the temples and Talmudic colleges but ob the streets it’s quite equal.

      In recent years the people of Mea Shearim are more opened to photography and on holidays like Purim they are more welcoming than on regular days.

      I think that the “secret” to street and documentary photography is to get close in order to capture the emotions and make them feel personal.
      Some will let you, some will ask you, tell you or shout at you not to, and you have to respect them(even if they don’t respect you), some won’t even notice you taking the pictures.
      Sometime they are bi-polar about it… like in the place I took the video, one guy invited me in and gave me wine and wanted me to dance and another guy banished me…

      • kaie w. bird says:

        Ah… thanks for the hearty reply. It is always interesting to see what happens on visits to Jerusalem, as something always does happen. I love being able to see places in this city that I haven’t been allowed to see or understand better, so I really enjoyed your photo. Look forward to more and thanks again for the great reply!!

  3. Santi says:

    Great graphical and written document!! I like both very much.

  4. veredgf says:

    enjoyed this post as well – especially the kids with the ciggies – not real ciggies right? Liked the way the kid in the background was framed here. Good shot.

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