Purim Means Radio Hoaxes, Traffic Jams in Israel

Purim was marked today by an “April Fool”-like prank by the Army Radio station and mammoth traffic jams in Tel Aviv where a carnival and some 5,000 runners from Israel and 15 other countries pre-empted the streets for a local version of the Boston and New York marathons.

The Army Radio — Galei Tzahal — stole the show this morning with a straight-faced report that an American multi-millionaire who died last week left his $5 billion fortune to the State of Israel, solving in one massive cash infusion, Israel’s economic crisis.

According to the broadcast, the benefactor stipulated two conditions: Former Finance Minister Yoram Aridor must be re-instated and the Treasury must adopt the controversial plan to make the U.S. Dollar Israel’s official currency. The newscast included live interviews with Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai, who is at present in Washington, and solicited reactions from coalition and opposition members of the Knesset.

Telephone lines were open to questions from listeners who were told that the import ban on luxury items was lifted as soon as the huge bequest was known. Most listeners did not fall for the hoax — a traditional “Purim spiel” of the Army Radio. But it became the talk of the town.

THREE MARATHONS RUN

In Tel Aviv, where traffic congestion is a daily way of life, motorists simply gave up in despair. The streets were jammed with local residents and visitors watching two Purim events — the annual Adloyada carnival arranged by shopkeepers on Sheinken Street — a thoroughfare that has gone to seed but is now in the process of “gentrification” — and the fifth Tel Aviv Marathon organized by the Hapoel Sports Club.

There were actually three marathons — a 21 kilometer “mini race”; a 42 kilometer main race; and a five kilometer run for elderly men and women, young children and war invalids in wheelchairs.

A Frenchman was winner of the main marathon. Jean-Pierre Charbanel did the 42 kilometers in two hours and 23 minutes. It was his second win since 1981. A Hungarian and an Italian runner finished second and third. The first woman across the finish line was Iris Kristenssen of Denmark.

In the short race, the oldest runner was 78-year-old Yosef Bein who participates in all local marathons. The youngest was a four-and-a-half-year-old boy.

The carnival and parade on Sheinkin Street, drew some 50,000 spectators. More than 500 policemen were on hand to allow traffic to periodically cross the line of march and occasionally to interupt the marathon. But vehicles were stalled for as long as two hours at some intersections. More than two million candles and a half million packages of chocolate and wafers were distributed nationally by the Habad Hasidim to new immigrants, soldiers, hospitalized persons and war orphans. For the new immigrants from Ethiopia, this was their first Purim.

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