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Tension Pervades Purim Revelry As Israel Copes with Stabbings

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Israelis celebrated Purim in a nervous mood Thursday.

The festivities were marred by fear in the aftermath of Tuesday’s fatal knife attack in Jaffa, the latest in a series of Arab assaults on Jews.

Tension peaked in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, where a young Israel Defense Force officer mistook Israeli revelers wearing Purim costumes of Arab garb for terrorists and shot them.

Parents all over Israel accompanied groups of youngsters who in past years had been free to wander the city streets in their Purim costumes unchaperoned.

The traditional Purim carnival and parade was held Thursday in Holon, a working-class town south of Tel Aviv, but only after the town council spent hours agonizing over whether to cancel it.

Two days earlier, a 19-year-old Israeli woman and an Arab garage owner who tried to help her were killed in neighboring Jaffa by a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip, who attacked with a sword and a knife.

The assailant went on to slash 20 other people before he was gunned down, most of them teen-age girls from Holon’s Mitrani School who were about to go to a Purim party.

The city fathers finally decided to hold the festival.

Three of the wounded girls, swathed in bandages, watched the parade as guests of honor from the reviewing stand.

Floats included the usual biblical tableaux and floral displays. They also featured mock-ups of the Iraqi Scud missiles which struck the Tel Aviv area during the Persian Gulf War last year.

This generally low-key Purim demonstrated the inroads of American television culture. Esthers and Mordechais were outnumbered by Ninja Turtles and Simpsons, television cartoon characters imported from the United States.

There were fewer Arab costumes than in past years, possibly because Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu issued a halachic injunction against them on the eve of Purim.

He said it was forbidden to dress as an Arab “because of the security situation and the recent attacks by Arabs on Jews.”

But 22-year-old Avshalom Seri learned the hard way that it is dangerous to ignore rabbinical authority.

He and his 15-year-old brother were on their way to a Purim party in Herzliya wearing Arab headdresses and robes, plus gorilla masks.

An IDF second lieutenant passing by assumed the pair were terrorists and fired a warning shot into the air and four more shots, hitting Avshalom in the neck and legs.

The soldier realized his mistake when the stricken party-goer cried out in Hebrew.

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