JERUSALEM, Israel – On Friday, Jerusalemites are celebrating day two of the festival of Purim, called Shushan Purim – a perk for Jews living in "walled cities."
Every year, the story of Purim, recorded in the Book of Esther, is read in synagogues, community centers and people's homes. The story itself admonishes Jews to celebrate Purim throughout their generations.
"Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. Therefore for all the words of this letter, and of that which they had seen concerning this matter, and which had come unto them, the Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time every year; And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed." (Esther 9:26-28).
While the name of God is never mentioned in any of the book's 10 chapters, it's obvious He's orchestrating the events – at least for those who don't believe in "coincidence."
The details of the story are well known, but few tire of hearing how the king's chancellor fell victim to his own evil scheme: to evoke the king's blessing to annihilate every Jew throughout the Persian Empire (120 provinces from India to Ethiopia).
But up to the mid-19th century, Jerusalem's Jewish residents dwelt in the safety of the walled city because even back then, they faced unfriendly and potentially dangerous enemies outside the walls.
Enter Moses Montefiore, a Jewish philanthropist – a visionary – who looked toward the re-establishment of his people's biblical homeland.
In 1860, Montefiore built the first neighborhood outside the Old City walls and encouraged residents to venture out of their safety zone. He had a heart for the city's poor families and backed up his efforts with financial provision for those brave enough to make the move.
He also financed the construction of a windmill to provide flour for the neighborhood's residents. It is still standing today in the Yemin Moshe neighborhood in central Jerusalem. And he provided a printing press and textile manufacturing facility for the neighborhood. He did much more to help those of his day look toward the long-awaited return of Diaspora Jewry (those living outside of Israel).
Interestingly enough, 21st century Jerusalem not only remains the focus for Jews, whose biblical connection is indisputable, but also for Christians and Muslims.
The latest media scuttlebutt involves US President Donald Trump's alleged plan to divide the city, offering the eastern sector to the Palestinian Authority as the capital of its future state.
But it doesn't stop there. According to Arab sources, Trump intends to put the Old City – the "original" Jerusalem, under a form of international governance. It will be interesting to watch what God does with that.
It is important to note that the White House plan has not been announced. But if true, those who know the meaning of the Esther story will be following very closely.
Meanwhile, it's time to celebrate Purim with joy and confidence that the same God who thwarted Haman's plan to annihilate the Jews hasn't changed one iota.
Purim parades, TPS, Eitan Elhadez and Hillel Maeir; Esther scroll, Hillel Maeir
Yemin Moshe and Montefiore Windmill, GPO archive