As well as being Good Friday, last Friday was also the Jewish festival of Purim, which celebrates the saving of the Jewish people while in exile in Persia by Esther. Orphaned as a child she was brought up by her older cousin Mordecai. When King Ahasuerus fell out with his Queen and organised a beauty contest to find a replacement, Mordecai encouraged Esther to enter, advising her to hide the fact that she was Jewish. She won and became Queen Esther, and Mordecai gained a minor position in court, where he did well.

Golders Green

Haman, the villain of the story, became chief minister, and fell out with Mordecai who refused to bow down before him as he expected. Haman decided to kill all the Jews, persuading the king that they were a people who obeyed different laws and should not be tolerated in his kingdom, and he made plans for them all to be killed.

Mordecai persuaded Esther she must see the king and plead for mercy – as she too would have been killed. It was tricky as anyone who went to see the king without his invitation – even a queen – was likely to be executed on the spot. She fasted three days before risking a visit, but fortunately he was pleased to see her. Later she told him about Haman’s plans and that she would be one of those killed; he was appalled and granted mercy. But he had already allowed Haman to make the orders in his name, and they could not be annulled. Instead he made a new decree, allowing the Jews to defend themselves against the killers – which they did with great effect, killing 70,00 and hanging Haman on the gallows that he had built for Mordechai.

Golders Green 2

The Purim celebrations include wearing fancy dress, and I photographed the people at at Camp Simcha Purim fun bus in Golders Green for half and hour or so, and you can see more of the pictures on My London Diary.

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