An Israeli-American Halloween

Halloween used to be great fun for me back in New York, growing up in the suburbs of Long Island. I was a happy trick-or-treater as I skipped along the winding roads of my suburban neighborhood. Sometimes I even dared to try the little cottage with the quaint chimney even though the lights were usually dim.

In high school, I was too cool for the holiday. If anything, I would wear pajamas with my high school friends and gaze in puzzled amusement at the cliques of slutty Disney Princesses and dark demons. It was still okay to treat or treat though as long as I went with my sister since she still just eight years old when I was sixteen.

In college my friends and I would make a whole week of celebrating the spooky, kooky, & somewhat silly spectacles leading up to October 31st. Sometimes we would watch ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ together or make a giant pumpkin pie. Once we had apple cider and had a couple of piñatas at a party we threw.

There were even one or two years that I invested time and money in multiple costumes because it is undeniably fun to get so into character that people don’t even recognize you. Or just to be able to act silly and over the top because you are not you—you are Edward Scissorhands, or a Vampire Hunter, or a ‘naughty nurse’ or a clown or a walking skeleton. Those were my college costumes. What can I say? I guess all those years of being Pocahontas or some other Native American princess made me want to go to the dark side a bit, perhaps.

After college, I didn’t really do very much on Halloween. I think last year I may or may not have fallen prey to the terror that is the annual ‘Leprechaun’ movie series marathon boasting the classic ‘Leprechauns In the Hood.’ I even waited to have Halloween candy until the trick-or-treaters had their pick earlier that night.

When I knew I was going to Israel, I thought of the holiday and I’m not sure who mentioned it but somebody said something to me about how it would be smart to pack a Halloween costume. I thought it was a stupid idea. Halloween? In Israel? A Pagan holiday? A night of mischief and ghoulishness. A night of reanimation of corpses and celebration of the spirits. I couldn’t imagine needing my retired nurse’s costume or dusting off my leather pants.

Sure enough, my American group of teaching fellows was all over the idea of Halloween in Be’er Sheva (calling it ‘Boo Sheva’) and began making plans early on when October started. I must say, all things considered, it was one of the best Halloweens that I have experienced. It was an all new experience in that we were celebrating it with Israelis for the first time and even though some begrudgingly grumbled that it just seemed like a two-bit version of Purim, most of them had an amazing time. The Israelis that had an amazing time went all out with costumes as well, some funny and some just creatively working with what they had. It warmed my heart to see Pacman and his ghost counterpart grace my hallway. I was very pleased with my own costume—a Soviet Soldier look–that I put together with a military inspired jacket I already owned, a blouse, tie, skirt, and pilotka hat that I found for just a bit of pocket money at the Old City flea market.

I may still be finishing up with some scary movies that I was in the mood to watch this week but Halloween is surely and definitely over (I finally finished uploading the photos to Facebook). Most of our ‘spooky decorations’ have evaporated along with the rest of the night or mysteriously disappeared like all of the garbage and empty bottles. I suppose since it’s over, we should start planning early for Purim!

About the Author
Melissa Beiser has a bachelor's degree from SUNY New Paltz in English and creative writing. She hails from New York originally and recently relocated to Arizona with her family. Teaching English in Beersheba is her first experience living abroad.