A green Purim

While Christians are gearing up for Easter, this weekend also marks the festival of Purim in the Jewish faith, as noted in this story from the LA Times’ “Babylon and Beyond” blog:

Jews in Israel and around the world are celebrating Purim, the holiday marking the escape of the Persian Jews from a plot to exterminate them devised by Haman, vizier to King Ahasuerus who ruled Persia in the 5th century BC.

The Book of Esther tells the story of the plot and the reversal of fate by which the community was saved. Among the good deeds Jews are obliged to fulfill during the holiday is “mishloah manot”- the sending of portions [of food], and “matanot la’evyonim”- gifts, charity to the poor.

(The customary masquerading, mostly by children, is another prominent if relatively modern tradition — and is becoming more modern by the minute. Among secular kids, Queen Esther is out; SpongeBob Squarepants, sadly, is in.)

This year, Israelis went all-out with holiday spirit. They showered love, giving and gifts on the town of Sderot that has suffered rocket attacks for the past seven years. The southern town and its environs have been worn thin by years of fear, financial losses and government promises, and thousands have abandoned it in recent years. The rockets that started out crude and with more bark than bite have evolved into lethal weapons; fired from Gaza, they take a fleeting 15 seconds to land in Sderot, where mundane activities have become dangerous gambles.

That story is here.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post has published Sviva Israel’s list of ten tips for an environmentally friendly Purim. Many of the tips are practices we can incorporate in our own gift-giving rituals, such as:

1. Trash the baskets – What can you do with so many straw baskets and gift bags? Package your Mishloah Manot in useful, reusable containers such as storage containers, glasses, mugs and pasta drainers for year-round usability.

2. Wrap it up – For the more creative, wrap up your food items in a pretty hand towel, apron, cloth table napkins, oven mitts or other useful fabric item.

3. Sustainable stuffing – Instead of padding out your package with shredded cellophane or colored paper, use banana chips, sunflower seeds or popcorn (only for recipients over three years old).

4. Bag it – Follow the fashion trend and give your gifts in eco-friendly cloth bags that your friends can reuse for shopping.

The complete list is here.

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