In first person…A hat is not just a hat when its Purim in Israel

Recently my wife and I went on a 10-day Hadassah "Miracle Mission" to Israel. It was shortly after an 11th-hour resolution of the Iraq crisis and we were determined not to be intimidated by random acts of violence or by rumors and rhetoric of political and religious discord.

We were welcomed with great warmth and enthusiasm, and saw no sign of hostility or unusual security measures.

One of the most extraordinary and emotional events took place on Purim in Jerusalem. We walked to Ben-Yehuda Street in midmorning. The streets were overflowing with children in costume. I decided to purchase a multicolored jester's cap from a street vendor, one with a high crown and free-flowing tassels.

The moment I placed this hat upon my head, it was if a miracle had taken place.

Men, women and children from every sector of Israeli life came running over to me. Walking up Ben-Yehuda and King George streets and Jaffa Road, I was greeted by smiling soldiers, couples, bearded men with fur-lined shtrummel hats, Orthodox families scurrying to and from celebrations. All stopped to wish me a hearty Chag Sameach — happy holiday.

I began to weep uncontrollably, overcome by the sensation that on this one special day, the traditions of 3,000 years of history prevailed, and an entire city, irrespective of religious platforms and politics, recognized and acknowledged that we are all Jews, sharing together a beautiful and distinguished heritage. It was a day of peace, a day of hope, a day that I will never forget.