By: Hana LaRock
Purim in Tel Aviv is known far and wide as perhaps the city’s #1 party holiday. The atmosphere is decidedly carnival-like as the whole country dresses up in costume and takes to the streets, bars, clubs, synagogues and anyplace else you can think of for a day of merriment… and drunkenness. No joke. There’s actually a widely accepted religious edict that it’s a “mitzvah” (commandment or good deed) to get drunk on Purim.
Getting drunk will go a long way toward making sure you celebrate Purim righteously, but if you don’t dress up, expect to take some flak. In general, you can dress up however you want — it’s Tel Aviv, after all. That said, this isn’t Halloween in the UK or US. You don’t just put on a revealing or obnoxious costume and hit the streets. Tel Avivians appreciate a bit of wit and humor, so for those who want to go native this year, we’ve put together this handy guide to dressing up for Purim in Tel Aviv.
If you want to know more about the holiday and events, check out our Purim in Tel Aviv page, but if you’re rightfully more worried about your costume, read on!
The Top 10 Tel Aviv Purim Costume Themes
Let’s just get this one out of the way… Is it cliche? Yes. Is it fun anyway? You better believe it.
Just make sure you get the wig right, or nobody will respect you.
It may be a tad morbid, but if you’ve ever met a Tel Avivian before, then you know that morbid humor is right up there alley, and they usually have a reverence for dead celebrities. Plus there’s something ironically evergreen about dressing up as a dead celebrity.
The nice thing about this costume choice in Tel Aviv is that there’s almost no such thing as too soon or too tragic, as long as the costume is good and/or witty enough.
David Bowie will definitely be a popular one this year. It’s got all the ingredients — beloved figure, stylish and so many looks to choose from.
Our pick is the Thin White Duke. If you can pull it off, you’ll be a golden god.
However, just so you have an example of “too soon,” “cancer patient Bowie” would probably be considered in poor taste.
In general, it’s more of a Halloween thing, but the undead have found their place in the Purim costume landscape because everybody appreciates a good makeup job.
Zombies are a particular favorite, especially for the Tel Aviv Zombie Walk.
Bonus Combo: Zombie Trump
Best of both worlds, but the wig is still essential.
Characters are always a popular choice, whether they’re from a movie, TV show, video game, book, or phone app. Go as a Cookie Run character, a minion, an anime doll, Walter White and Jesse, or take the easy road and rock your favorite superhero. There will no doubt be a lot of Deadpool costumes out this year, but there’s no shame in hopping on the bandwagon.
Bonus Combo: Severus Snape/Alan Rickman
Dead celebrity and notable movie character… There must be a way to have some fun with this one.
Controversial Political Costumes
Obviously, here were talking about the non-Donald Trump class. Have you ever danced in a street party next to a baby Hugo Chavez? It’s fun.
Not to mention, between Israeli and European politics and an election year in the US, you just have so many options this year. We find that Kim Jong-un is always a crowd pleaser.
Bonus Combo: Charlie Chaplin
If you want to throw people for a loop, you can dress up as Charlie Chaplain. While not actually a controversial figure, it’s always fun to see how many people ask if you’re supposed to be Hitler. Plus, you check off 3 themes: dead celebrity, notable movie character and controversial political costume.
Tel Aviv has one of the most vibrant art communities in the world, so if you dress up as a famous artist, somebody is going to appreciate it. Best to add a little bit of flair to the costume, though.
For instance, if you’re going to dress up like Van Gogh, you should probably invest in a bottle of Absinthe to carry around (or at least a bottle of liquor with green food coloring). This costume fulfills both your obligation to dress up and to get drunk. Plus it’s a great way to make new friends, as long as you’re willing to share. No need to actually cut off your own ear, though. There is such a thing as going too far for a Purim costume.
Tel Avivians love their food, so it’s always a solid option. Whether you prefer to dress up like a bowl of cereal, a spice jar, a tub of hummus, or ice cream with a cherry on top, the options are endless. The best part is you can do as much or as little with it as you’d like with it. This video has some ideas…
(iTravelTelAviv takes no responsibility for any instances of drunk people trying to eat you.)
You’ve definitely seen one or two of these amazing costumes in your lifetime, and creating one yourself will have all the attention on you. There are a lot of ways to make a crazy illusion costume, and whether you choose to be the man cut in half or the hairy gorilla carrying your own body in a cage, you can have fun with this. It might take some serious planning, but the results will be unbelievable. Just try not to be too creepy…
The pun has developed a bit of a bad reputation over the years, but when it comes to costumes it still reigns supreme in Tel Aviv. Maybe it’s because there’s nothing funnier than being a literal walking joke… or maybe it’s because everybody’s drunk… or maybe it’s just because even lazy people can make them.
In any event, while some pun costumes might take a while for people to figure out, others will be interpreted instantly. Why not try dressing up as a Devil and an egg with your partner, putting Freud quotes on a sexy slip or wearing a pot on your head?
If you want something locally inspired and less in-your-face and have a partner, you can dress up as 2 stamps. The word for stamp in Hebrew is “bul,” and for some reason, “bul bul” is slang for male genitalia.
(iTravelTelAviv takes no responsibility for hurt feelings if people don’t get your costume.)
Traditional Purim Attire
Can’t find a costume that’s appealing to you, or believe the real masqueraders of Purim aren’t getting enough attention? Then go for a traditional Purim costume. Dress up like Queen Vashti or Queen Esther, King Achashverosh, wear a pointed hat like Haman, or take the self-deprecating road as a royal Persian Jester.
This would have made the top 10, but people dressed in drag are an everyday occurrence in Tel Aviv. It’s one of the perks of living in one of the most open and LGBTQ-friendly cities in the world.
However, Purim is definitely a day where all types of drag are celebrated, as guys get an excuse to try pulling off (and surviving) a dress and heels or experience the freedom of a flowing hippie skirt and women get to dress up as their favorite male movie characters — no questions asked.
About the author
Hey all! My name is Hana LaRock and I’m originally from Stony Brook, New York. I’ve lived abroad for the last two years and I like to travel to other countries whenever I get the chance. I graduated the University of Hartford in 2013, and during my time there I spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University. I currently live in South Korea where I work as an ESL teacher for young children. When I’m not teaching, I work as a freelance travel writer. Find me at www.hanalarockwriting.com.