Purim is an excellent opportunity to enter the world of the religious yeshivot, which don't regularly welcome a photographer and his camera. Pressing the button to capture the picture is just the end of the process, which is preceded by communication and building trust with the photographed people.
Since photographing the reading of the Book of Esther in Bnei Brak eight years ago, I continue to visit different haredi communities.
Nowadays the camera is just an "excuse" for me to look beyond stereotypes and prejudices and meet the people of the different haredi neighborhoods, particularly Jerusalem's Mea Shearim.
1. As I enter the Mea Shearim neighborhood, I notice lovely girls dressed as the Israel Postal Service. I didn’t direct them – this is how they stood in perfect composition, next to the red post office boxes.
2. A young couple marches with a packed Purim gift
3. The Purim celebration at the yeshiva lasts until the small hours of the night. A little boy falls asleep on a bench.
4. The Toldot Avraham Yitzhak Yeshiva in Mea Shearim. Purim is the ultimate rebelliousness ceremony in the Jewish calendar thanks to the sentence, "Until one does not know the difference between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai."
5. The yeshiva students take advantage of the command to lose consciousness until one cannot tell the difference between cursed and blessed, between right and wrong. Tish ceremonies and grand parties are held at the yeshivot on one day of reversal. Social order is maintained thanks to the possibility to violate it together on one single day.
6. Purim is the time for charity beggars and yeshiva fundraisers. Dressed in elegant clothes, delegations leave the yeshivot to collect donations and gifts for the poor residents.
7. Rabbi Grossman (second from the top), Migdal Haemek's rabbi, and his family leave to visit his father, who lives in Mea Shearim.
8. It's amazing to see the children in haredi neighborhoods dress up as policemen and soldiers – much more than in secular neighborhoods. And this is precisely the idea of Purim: Our opportunity to fulfill all of our fantasies, the characters we will never be, dream as far as we can… for just one day.
9. Belz Hasidism in Jerusalem. The yeshiva students observe the Purim gelt they received from the desk of the honorable Rebbe.
10. One last picture, this time of the Sanz Hasidism in Netanya. Hundreds of Hasidim stand on the tribunes and watch the Purim Spiel together with their Rebbe.
Harel Stanton is photographer, lecturer and workshop instructor
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