Wednesday 11 December 2019

Celtic Roots Craic 59 – Patrick's Day, Purim and Molly Bloom's

Murphy's Irish Festival, Tel Aviv

Well, it just so happens that two celebrations are happening back to back this weekend – the Jewish festival of Purim finishes on the 14th of Adar – which is Sunday 16th – and, of course, St. Patricks Day is on the 17th! But y’all knew that last bit, didn’t ye? Anyway, chag Purim sameach to all our Jewish and Israeli listeners. Apparently, there are several day long parties happening at several pubs across Israel. 

At Purim the Jews celebrate the story of Queen Esther, who delivered the whole Jewish race from extinction by the wicked Haman. She fasted and prayed, then went in to the Persian king, her husband, without being summoned, which could have resulted in her own death. Thankfully, the king looked kindly on her and heard her request on behalf of her people. In the end, it was the wicked Haman who was executed, along with his whole family.

To celebrate the deliverance from death of Purim, the Jews give each other presents of food and drink, recite the complete story of Esther, from the bible, donate to charity, eat a lot of food, dress up in fancy dress and masks, drink a lot of alcohol and celebrate in the streets, with dancing and so forth. So, there’s not a whole lot of difference between Purim and St. Paddy’s Day, is there?

Now, you may not be aware of this, but the Israelis are mad keen on Irish music and there are Irish pubs all over Israel. I can’t claim to have visited every one of them – even with my five trips to Israel, so far – but I did get to an Irish festival in Tel Aviv in 2006, which led to me meeting a Jewish brother and sister, originally from here in Ireland – well, he WAS carrying a bodhran! They told about the best Irish pub in Tel Aviv and, of course, I decided to investigate.

The pub is called ‘Molly Bloom’s’ (she was the wife of Leopold Bloom, who was the hero of James Joyce’s book, ‘Ulysses’) and the pub is at the end of Mendele Street, in Tel Aviv, beside the beach. Apparently, on St. Patrick’s Day the street is so packed that the police come and close it off to traffic. 

Anyway, I found it easily enough, and went in to find a packed Irish pub, great food, draught Guinness, and about twenty Irish musicians playin’ their hearts out. One girl had the most beautiful clear Irish voice, singing an unaccompanied song – but it turned out, to my great surprise, that there wasn’t an Irish person among them! They were all native Israelis and brilliant musicians. Needless to say, I’ve been back there since – both for the music, the Guinness and for the great food (the seafood pie, or the venison sausages? Hmm!)

Strange to say, I’ve not officially performed in any of these pubs – though I have busked in Jerusalem at the end of Shabbat – but maybe one day in the future I’ll put that right!  

St. Patrick’s Day is also celebrated all over Moscow and in other strange and far-flung places. So, wherever ye happen to be, ‘Paddys lá sona’ or ‘Lá fhéile Phádraig shona duit.’ – have a great St. Patrick’s Day!

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