Will terrorists steal the fun of Purim from kids in Israel

Malka Levy doesn't expect to sell a great many Purim costumes in her Rehovot toy store this year, and so she ordered only one-third the usual number from Tel Aviv wholesalers.

"One big terrorist attack and my investment goes down the drain," she explains.

This happened in 1996, when after several suicide bombings, the Ministry of Education issued a directive calling for the cancellation of all Purim parties in the country's kindergartens and schools. And one can be absolutely certain that the various terrorist groups will do their best to repeat their "achievement" of six years ago.

Israelis hope, for the sake of their children and grandchildren, that the terrorists won't succeed, because Purim, which is Tuesday, Feb 27, is the favorite holiday of local kids, a day they wait for all year around. And, a month or two before it is celebrated, they dream about the costumes they will be wearing and the parties they will be attending.

When their costumes are ready, having either been bought at a shop or sewn by mother, the boys and girls try them on again and again, to the admiring "oohs" and "aahs" of their parents and siblings. There are fashions in Purim dress just as in everything else.

The most popular this year according to Levy are those linked to the heroes of movies, TV programs and comic books. That means that she is outfitting a lot of Harry Potters, and a somewhat smaller number of Supermen, Spidermen and Batmen. Also selling well are perennial favorites like the costumes of policemen, clowns and Gypsies.

Queen Esthers, except among the Orthodox, will be few and far between; however, some secular little girls will be Barbie look-alikes.

And as might be expected in the current political situation, make-believe Arabs will be missing altogether — with one exception: In a few shops, Osama bin Laden masks are available.

In any case, Arabs, or more particularly Arab terrorists, will be very much on the minds of Israelis. As a Jerusalem friend told me: "I'll certainly dress up my kids, but I won't let them wander around in the center of town as they used to do on Purim."

Outside Jerusalem, traditional Purim parades are being held, though not without a measure of anxiety. For example, in Modi'in — a new town between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that already has a population of some 35,000 — the mayor insists that a parade will take place. However, my son, who lives there, told me that he and his wife aren't sure they will let their 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son participate.

"After all," he points out, "we are right on the edge of the Palestinian areas and you can't be sure what will happen."

By far, the biggest Purim parade is scheduled for Holon, a Tel Aviv suburb. It will feature, as it does every year, dozens of floats and a thousand or more costumed marchers. Needless to say, it will be protected by platoons of police and soldiers.

I find a parallel between the situation here and that described in the classic Dr. Seuss book, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Seuss tells us how the Grinch's attempt to prevent the holiday from being celebrated was foiled by the people of Whoville. One can only hope that the people of Israel are equally successful in their attempt to prevent the terrorists from stealing Purim.