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Israel Celebrates Purim Holiday Under Tight Security


Israel is celebrating the biblical holiday of Purim under tight security. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel has restricted the movement of Palestinians amid concerns of possible terror attacks.

It is a weekend of parties and celebrations as Israelis mark the holiday of Purim with costume parties in homes and community centers and on the streets. The holiday marks the deliverance of the Jews from annihilation in ancient Persia some 2,400 years ago, as told in the biblical Book of Esther.

Security is extremely tight for the holiday. The army has sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians have been barred from entering Israel. Police say they have intelligence information that Palestinian militants could try to disrupt the holiday with terrorist attacks. It has happened before. A suicide bomber blew up a Purim parade in Tel Aviv in 1996, killing 13 people.

But that hasn't stopped the celebrations this year.

"It's a party. Everybody's coming dressed up as something," says Amit Gabbai, a Jerusalem high school student, who was dressed up as character from a Hollywood hit. "Well, I'm wearing this beautiful green dress and I put on a wig. And I'm dressed as Princess Fiona from 'Shrek 1.'"

Are children worried about the threat of terror?

"Yes and no," says Gabbai. "No because, I don't know, I live here and it's usual for me and I know where not to go and I go to safe places, and yes because I mean everybody's dressing up, everybody's putting masks on and like carrying fake guns, and the terrorists could take advantage of that and dress up and, you know, do something bad."

Police and soldiers have stepped up their presence at the borders and crowded public places. Despite the threats, police have urged the public to come out and celebrate.

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