Purim in the Hebron Ghetto - A history

Guests from around the land would travel to Hebron to enjoy the city's famous hospitality and special Purim pastries and treats.

20.3.19, 10:55
(PHOTO: Purim in Hebron, 2018)
The following article about the Jewish holiday of Purim in Hebron was written in Hebrew by David Avisar (1887 - 1963) the Hebron-born journalist and poet. His language is slightly archaic, and he references foods and people long forgotten, but this article is an excellent window into the Old Yishuv days of Hebron, before the 1929 massacre. Avisar, like many writers of the day, refers to the Jewish neighborhood as "the ghetto," the only place in the Land of Israel to be referred to as such.
Today Purim is celebrated in Hebron with a parade in which photos and videos of smiling costumed participants are captured by family members using smartphones. So step back into another world, where all cakes and cookies were hand-made and waiting for the annual Purim convoy from Jerusalem was one of the few ways to get a news update. 
* * *
PART 1 - Purim Food
As the days of Purim approached, the attributes of the Hebron ghetto began to change. 

The fathers went out with their sons to the market which was full of holiday necessities.

Flour and sugar... nuts in "oakiot" [a measurement], eggs in hundreds, canned wine in "alpiyot" [a measurement], and spiced liqueur in the fragrance of a royal jug. 
The housewives, with the help of the girls, began to crush the spices: the cane, the cinnamon, the sugar and the almonds, all that accompanies the Purim cookies. 

And there is no house which did not prepare seven kinds of cakes for the holiday: 
Fancy "ma'amouls" stuffed with sugar, nuts and pine seeds, a seven-year-old "maklava" [maqluba], a house full of oil and honey and all kinds of spices, 
"Cormiel," also called "honeybee" and "Pustil" that crumbles in the mouth as if it was not known how it even arrived.

"Kvanim," the work of heaven - patterns of sunlight and winds made of flour and sugar, 
"Polarim" -- memories of this dough with the crowns on their heads and the egg in them.
"Auwiziot" or patikas, with their wings covered with a nice and pious egg - 'to build and to be pious.'
All these are arranged on copper and iron trays and are carried in a long line to the communal oven. 
During this season, the baker was working nights. From morning to evening he would stand at his counter, lifting up and lighting the stove and putting the trays inside. They are either closer to the fire, or they are farther from it, all according to ingredients and type of dough.
And he who was the first to receive "portions" from each tray, he was permitted to set aside "challah and haltaiim." For reasons of his family, he would never open his mouth and chirp. The comedians of the ghetto used to say that these foods nourished their family from the eve of Purim until the next eve of Purim.
And everyone knew that Shmulah Atliouff, the Bukharian used to hide silver and gold coins inside the cakes and pastries, secretly giving them to nursery school teachers and the humble poor.

PART 2 - The Guests

On the day of Ta'anit Esther [the Fast of Esther], the convoy arrived, Besha'a Tova, Tova Hevrona! A good, good year, Hebron!

Like a shepherd in front of his flock, at the head of the convoy marched Menashe the One-Eyed. And at the end, the two legs of Shimon Kadesh. And why did Menashe earn this position? 

There are many answers: His blind eye would aroused hearts and generated a lot of charity.

In addition, he was the author of the poems Melitz Amarim and Chorazharazim, as is printed below.
The children were the first to go out and greet the arrivals. They would meet every guest with enthusiasm and glowing faces, and certainly the large convoy that came from the city of Jerusalem, who walked about 35 kilometers on foot, and whose aim was to win over the Hebronites with the mitzvah hospitality and "gifts to the poor." 

In addition, we learned of the news from the capital, from which it was learned that a train now traveled daily from Jerusalem to Jaffa, and the pasha himself honored the "Hacham Bashi" [chief rabbi] and affixed his badge of honor from the exulted Sultan.

That the German Kaiser visited Jerusalem and showed Theodor Herzl the Land of Israel, and that the children of Jerusalem are eager to learn Hebrew and are able to write in foreign languages.
Is this all easy for you?
The convoy was brought to the city and from there to the Hebron ghetto. Menashe recited his own blessing in the courtyard of the ghetto and said:
“I yearned and longed for the City of the Forefathers. I will come through her gates with song and gratitude. Her elders and privileged, her blessed young and busy achievers."
"To life to life," called out the townspeople who greeted the guests. The shamesh [beadle] led them to the synagogue of the Chief Rabbi, assigned rooms, distributed food and also packages for Purim. The next morning they spread out through the city, drank with the residents, received "gifts to the poor" and as the sun turned towards the west, headed back in the direction of Jerusalem, to continue the holiday with their families.
PART 3 - The Controversy and Big Party

Once time, before it was known what had happened and what would happened, the poor [guests] announced a strike and would not go back to their openings [community tasks]. Some say that the beadle [shamesh or synagogue caretaker] did not treat them properly, and that in the course of his work he would present them with the troubles of the community: 

That the kollel was empty, that the Shadarim [emissaries] did not succeed in their collection of funds, etc., etc. 

Some said that the reception, in general, was not lawful or moral, and therefore the poor were not seen in public, the hostel was closed down, and the city of Hebron was embarrassed.
The Chief Rabbi sent his servant to invite the poor to him but they did not come. They sent the gabbai [synagogue attendant] but were not answered. The advice of the seven best of the city was:

"We will go to them, with our youth and with our elders, we will go together, and we will be happy together." 
So they said and they did. Families and more families flocked loaded with tefunim and megadnot, [pastries] wine and drinks, and with dishes and gifts to the hostel. The tables were immediately arranged with the elderly at the head and the young people at the end. This welcoming lasted a long ago. The wine pursued the drink and the drink came after the wine.

And in the name of all those who gathered, the cantor of the congregation delivered his blessing and said:
"I will speak from the heart...
I am your brother and you are my brother"
In the name of the convoy, the "assembler," Shimon Kadesh, was honored to respond to the blessing and recite his own saying:
"In the name of my brother, my thanks, 
You will merit and live for many years"
The greetings were received with happy cheers, the glasses were cast and the people kissed... they exchanged fez with black hat, jackets with overalls. The Sephardim wore "streimels" and the Ashkenazim wore turbans and they all danced together... and it was said of the occasion: Anyone who had not enjoyed this party has no taste for parties.
VISIT HEBRON TODAY! (you don't need to walk 35 kilometers to get there anymore)
United States contact info:

1760 Ocean Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11230
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hebronofficial
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/hebronfund