Julie Gray
Editor, Writer and Only Slightly Reformed Overthinker.

Upside Down on Purim

My life is afuk at the moment.  Upside down. I know the word afuk because I have been in Ulpan (Hebrew immersion classes) for three weeks that feel like an eternity. It is one of the vocabulary words that have actually stuck. I read once that one needs to hear and use a word at least eight times in context before it locks into your brain. Afuk has locked in.

I live in a very overpriced studio flat in Tel Aviv which, while having provided a cozy nest for the past year, has just been pulled out from under my Ikea bed. Turns out, my landlady just informed me, that she hadn’t realized that when she renovated the entire 2nd floor of her building, she had illegally subdivided it into four rather than two flats. The municipality is not happy. I am crying while I tell you this, she said, it’s like the end of the world for me. But you have 30 days to get out. My day turned afuk.

It isn’t that I can’t find another place, although 30 days is rather short notice. It’s not just that my very nice landlady has broken the law and that me and three other tenants are paying for it. No, it’s not just this. A lot of things have been going wrong in my life lately.  And I am filled with self doubt. This is not how I planned my life. Why did I make aliyah? Why did I think living B’eretz Israel would turn so many things around for me?

I am not a religious person but it is interesting that this is happening during Purim. What lessons does Purim hold for me, I asked myself?  I think about Queen Esther and her courage. I think about the seemingly inevitable situation that she and the Jews in Persia faced.  What symbolism or metaphor is trying to speak to me about having courage in the face of uncertainty, about prevailing no matter how difficult the circumstances seem to be? About changing one’s behavior and even appearance playfully just for one day in joyful celebration of having overcome terrible odds?

Maybe I won’t sit home and worry, I thought. I don’t have a costume or a party to go to, but maybe I’ll just get outside and take a walk.

I set out into the Tel Aviv evening for some solace and strolled down Rehov HaMalach George. I noticed that the beautiful Israeli avir was warm and inviting; winter is receding and it is almost spring. Revelers were dressed up in wonderful costumes for Purim and Tel Avivians who on a normal day might not smile at each other were relaxed and happy.

I thought about how the man who works at my local bakery got out a pencil and paper upon hearing this news about my imminent move so that he could write down my phone number and what kind of flat I am looking for. He is putting out the word. You are in Israel now, he said. You are never alone. He pointed skyward, as so many Israelis are wont to do. And he smiled. Remember that. 

On Purim, things are afuk – upside down – unexpected. Life can be a pur – a lottery. And this story, my story, though I do not yet know how,  has a very happy ending.


About the Author
Julie Gray is a story editor and nonfiction writer who made the leap from Los Angeles to Israel almost seven years ago and has many (mostly) humorous adventures ever since. A longtime Huffington Post contributor and self-described "Hollywood refugee", Julie works with writers all over the world on fiction and creative non-fiction books. Her own memoir, "They Do Things Differently Here" is an understatement and a work in progress. Julie heads up The Gidon Project, a collaborative memoir about the nature of memory, the spirit of resilience, the Holocaust the art of aging well and other lessons learned from one man's life. Julie's favorite color is "swimming pool" and when she's not working with and wondering about words, she loves to knit "future gifts" in her beloved Big Red Chair.
Related Topics
Related Posts