When I was growing up in a modern Orthodox community in New York, mishloach manot (a.k.a. “sholoch manos”) – the sending of food packages to friends and neighbors on Purim – seemed like an annual opportunity for one-upmanship.
While Jewish tradition requires sending two types of food to one person, people sent Purim parcels to the entire neighborhood, at enormous investments of time and expense. Pastries, fruit, and sweets were piled into baskets, bags, or boxes, loaded on to elaborate serving platters, wrapped in cellophane, and garnished with ribbons. And then there were the gift packages based on themes: baseball, breakfast, coffee, chocolate. Yum.
I vowed that I wouldn’t do the same thing in Israel when I had my own family. And indeed, during the early years, I was successful. But at some point, I started doing it myself.
Perhaps it was the adrenaline from making extravagant Purim costumes for my kids that stimulated my creative juices. Once I had finished making their made-to-scale police cars, space shuttles, and fighter planes or dressed them up as Harry Potter, Jack Sparrow, or Barack Obama (yes, we did), I simply couldn’t stop the flow.
Suddenly, I found myself giving wheelbarrows full of charity to excuse my indulgence, setting out to craft stores and supermarkets, and recruiting my somewhat reluctant husband and sons to help me make theme-based Purim parcels for far too many of our friends.
Looking back on the years, I’m amazed at how many of our wacky packages were related to politics or geo-political threats. When I wasn’t making my acclaimed “Mordechai Ben Yair Ben Shimi Ben Quiche,” baking “Like” cookies for Facebook-themed parcels, or gathering foods eaten by the contestants on Survivor, I could be found assembling the following:
In 2003, on the eve of the Second Gulf War, we made “unconventional warheads” out of bags of popped popcorn, rendering the Hebrew term literally by making heads with silly faces and a large arrow through the top.
In 2005, during the lead up to the disengagement from Gaza, we made an orange-themed mishloach manot (orange plates, oranges, carrots, kumquats, orange tic-tacs), symbolizing the protest against the withdrawal, because Purim is all about reversals, and it was the last thing our friends would have expected.
In 2006, we made large blue ballot boxes and stuffed them with foods symbolizing every party running for the 17th Knesset. Recipients e-mailed us their interpretations of what the items represented (prunes for the Pensioners Party stumped some), after which we e-mailed everyone our original intentions and the interpretations received.
In 2009, when the left-wing religious Meimad party was implausibly running for the 18th Knesset with the environmentalist Green Movement and Former Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior appeared in television ads brandishing a broom, our Purim gift packages were Meimad dustpans laden with all foods green: lettuce, celery, avocado, and more.
In 2010, after the assassination of a Hamas military Commander in Dubai, we dressed up as Israeli spies sporting false names and mustaches, and distributed packages shaped like the tennis rackets that they reportedly used for cover. The packets included forged British passports with our spy photos.
In 2012, as Prime Minister Netanyahu warned that Iran was drawing dangerously close to building a nuclear weapon, we made missiles out of energy drinks and plastic Kiddush cups, mounting the construction on a bed of sunflower seeds (which share a name with “nuclear” in Hebrew) and garnishing with mushroom clouds, “Atomic” sucking candies, and a banner in which the prime minister, citing a verse from the Book of Esther, asked how it is possible to watch the destruction of one’s homeland.
In 2013, we moved to a new neighborhood, and my family agreed that it was time to abandon the practice. But Israel was in the midst of coalition negotiations. Unable to resist, I made one large basket of “Do-It-Yourself-Coalition Mishloach Manot,” sent it to the friend who would appreciate it most, and used the Leket food bank’s wonderful platform to support a worthy cause while sending virtual Purim cards with a link to a video of the mishloach manot that my friends were not getting from us that year.
It’s now 2015 and – surprise! – it’s an election year again. Thanks to the Times of Israel, I can now share my Purim madness virtually with friends (and even strangers) far and wide. So without further ado, below is a mishloach manot for the 2015 elections that includes virtual Purim gifts for 10 of the parties running for the 20th Knesset.
1. The Likud
For the Likud I’ve included pistachio ice cream, of course, in honor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There’s also two bottles of wine for the woman behind this great man, one for her and one for guests (she can keep the deposit upon return). I’ve also thrown in a bag of popcorn for the Bibi-sitter to eat while watching TV after the children have gone to sleep.
2. The Zionist Union
The joint list of Labor and Hatnua, obviously, gets a “Pizza Bouji.”(Happily I was able to find a frozen one made by “Pillsbuji,” which was baked in what once was a brick oven – tanur levenim – in Hebrew, but is now a “Livni” oven.) It is accompanied by a container of Tzipi Livni Leben, which comes with it for free, since, as the Likud pizza delivery video warns, if you vote for Isaac Herzog, you will be stuck with Livni, whether you like her or not.
3. Bayit Yehudi
For Naftali Bennett’s “Jewish Home” party, I’m including an Osem “Habayit” chocolate and vanilla cake, symbolizing the two parties that are bundled in one: Bayit Yehudi and Tekuma. (A handwritten note on the packaging says that both flavors must be eaten.) Although all the other parties are getting at least two foods, Bayit Yehudi is only getting one, but as per the directive in Bennett’s hipster video, I’m not apologizing for it!
4. Yesh Atid
For Yair Lapid, the champion of the 0% VAT legislation that would exempt young couples from paying value added tax on the purchase of their first apartment, here’s a can of Coca Cola zero, a can of Efes beer (“efes” means zero in Hebrew), and a container of 0% yogurt.
Based on the sound of the party’s name and its social welfare ticket, the obvious choice for Moshe Kahlon’s “Koolanu” party is Kool-Aid. Since it’s not unavailable in Jerusalem, a bottle of “Cool Blue” Gator Aid is masquerading as Kool-anu Kool-Aid instead. It is joined by a BLU energy drink, since “Kahlon” sounds like “kachol” (Hebrew for “blue”). Since mishloach manot must be two different types of food, the drinks have been supplemented with chocolate coins representing the money that Kahlon’s intended reforms could save.
6. United Torah Judaism
Yahadut HaTorah, the Ashkenazic ultra-Orthodox party, is represented by – yes, it’s a cliché – a jar of gefilte fish and a package of kneidel (matzah ball) mix. Since mishloach manot are traditionally comprised of ready-made food and the matza ball mix needs cooking, a package of “Kinderlach” chocolate has been thrown in for good measure.
Aryeh Maklouf Deri, who has been taking pains to play the ethnic card, gets two thirds of a box of Moroccan cookies this year (the other third has either been taken by Eli Yishai, who is threatening to siphon off 4 of Shas’s mandates, or is invisible, like the underprivileged people in Shas’s campaign videos). It is joined by a bag of “Taste of Morroco” fava bean snacks with packaging that is too kitschy to be true.
For the left-wing Meretz party, since Meretz means “energy,” we’ve included an energy drink and Energy wheat cakes, both with touches of the party’s signature green color. And don’t let the XL on the energy drink fool you; the party’s slogan this year is “Small is Meretz” (in actual fact it’s smoll, the Hebrew word for “left”). These products should give party leader Zahava Galon plenty of energy for dancing at weddings.
9. Yachad (Unity)
Former Shas leader Eli Yishai’s Yahad HaAm Itanu, which includes Bayit Yehudi breakaway Yoni Chetboun and Baruch Marzel of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit, is represented by a package of “Mix Orient” munchies, a package of “MixIn” fruit and nuts, and a Marz(el) bar. Since the party does not allow women to run on its ticket, a package of “pure, fresh men” (once mentos) has been included as well.
10. Yisrael Beiteinu
What could be a better symbol of Avigdor Liberman’s “Israel is our Home” party (or perhaps of the relations between Israel and China) than the Tenuva cottage cheese with the iconic picture of the house? And to help his Russian constituents in their quest to drink until they can’t distinguish between Mordechai and Haman, this Purim package absolutly had to include a bottle of vodka.
Now that I’ve assembled all these items, what am I going to do with them? Perhaps we’ll simply eat them at our Purim seudah, the festive meal that we eat on Purim day. Perhaps we’ll wrap the items for each party in cellophane, tie them with a bow, and distribute them to whoever shows up at our house with Purim parcels of their own. Perhaps we will donate the whole kit and caboodle to a soup kitchen. Happily, in Jerusalem we celebrate Purim a day later than the rest of the world, so I have an additional day to figure it out.
In the meantime, Happy Purim to you, wherever you may be! May you drink until you can’t distinguish between Bouji and Bibi, and may the coming elections bring us a Knesset that lasts longer than the last one, so that I have a full four years until I am inspired to do this again.
Looking to support a worthy cause this Purim? Rather than actually make political party packets for friends and family, now that I’ve made one, I’m going to help feed Israel’s hungry by sending virtual Purim cards through Leket Israel, the National Food Bank, and including a link to this blog. You can order your cards and upload the email addresses of your desired recipients, even on Purim day itself, here.