The Hidden Story of Jerusalem in Purim

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Ateret Cohanim  – then and now!

“I hereby make a decree what you shall do for the builders of Jerusalem and the House of G-d…. expenses given with all diligence…and whoever alters this word, may a beam be pulled from his home and he be hung…and may his house bea dunghill and refuse.”

No, this is not the call from Ateret Cohanim (today’s redeemers and builders of Jerusalem). This is the famous decree of none other than the Great King of Persia – Darius the Second.

Without reading the book of Ezra, it is rather difficult to understand what is truly happening before, during, and after the famous story of Esther, Mordechai, Haman and Achashveirosh in Persia 2500 years ago. So in the next few lines i hope to enlighten and maybe inspire you readers – and all from the words in the Book of Ezra.

The State of Israel is destroyed, the Temple is burnt to the ground and Am Yisrael (The Jewish people) are taken into the Babylonian captivity. The year is 587 BCE. We were told in prophecies of a 70 years exile, but no one was sure of the exact dateline calculation. Following the Babylonian Empire was the Persian Empire, and the most famous of all Persian kings was no doubt – King Cyrus. He made declarations of freedom, equality and and end to slavery. Within his decrees was of course the famous decree for the Jewish people to return home to Jerusalem, to rebuild the city walls, the Holy Temple and the country itself. Sadly – not many listened to the wonderful decree, they did not return home to Israel and they simply stayed in the now “comfortable exile” of Shushan and Persia.

Mordechai returns and the city of Jerusalem starts to be rebuilt with minimal resources.Then (Just like today) the “left wing” radicals of the era, a few locals, the Samaritans, the sons of Haman and a few landlords, didn’t like the fact that the Jews were returning, rebuilding and changing the landscape. Sound familiar?They write – “divrei sitna” – letters of hate and incitement, back to the now- new king of Persia – King Achashveirosh, claiming that the Jews are rebelling and the king must stop the rebuilding of Jerusalem. And so King Achashveirosh stops the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem.

Some Jews in Persia don’t demonstrate and don’t wish to rock the Persian boat as they are good loyal Persian citizens.Mordechai doesn’t understand what is happening as he remembers the prophecy of the 70 years. How will things unfold? So he goes back to Shushan. NOW IS THE WELL KNOWN STORY OF PURIM – with Esther, Mordechai Haman and the King Achashveirosh.

Jerusalem is at stake. Everything centers around Jerusalem! The ending we know – with Haman hung from the high gallows, the Jews awaken and defend themselves against all the antisemites of the time and kill many of them, and all is seemingly good for the Jewish people. But the story isn’t really over.

Jerusalem needs to be rebuilt.

The next part of the story is found back in the Book of Ezra.A few years later (remember that the story of Purim unfolds over a number of years), the new very young king of Persia is King Darius the Second. Guided by his mother according to most opinions (Esther) and his great uncle Mordechai – he makes another decree giving the Jewish People full rights to return home, to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem and also the HOUSE OF G-D (Temple). He calls on all Jews in his expansive Persian Empire to supply goods, resources and cover all expenses and the needs for the diligent builders of Jerusalem. (Quote is at top of article)The walls and city itself are rebuilt and the Temple is finally completed with fanfare on the 3rd Adar !!!

That’s the true and hidden story of Jerusalem behind the scenes in Persia, during “our” Purim story. It’s all about redeeming, reclaiming and rebuilding Jerusalem.

And so today – the world may be against the reunification of Jerusalem. Today there may be numerous resolutions at the UN against our sovereign hold of Jerusalem. Today – the Arabs will try everything, including violence and incitement to wrench the city away from us – the true sons of Abraham who have returned to Jerusalem. 

There may be Moslem edicts of death (Fatwas) against  Arab sellers of land to Jews in Jerusalem. But none of this matters, as Jerusalem will forever stay in Jewish hands.Those so called empires who tried to crush our spirit and take away Jerusalem from us (the rightful heirs of Jerusalem), are today – simply bylines in history books. 

Ateret Cohanim (non profit organization established 40 yrs ago) is “fighting the 7th day war”, trying to keep a united Jerusalem in Jewish hands for generations, by strengthening Jewish roots in and around the Old City.

Daniel Luria
Article by Daniel Luria

Daniel Luria is the Executive Director and International Spokesman for Ateret Cohanim. He is considered a global expert on Jerusalem, with a focus on urban land reclamation initiatives. he is a sought after speaker, guide, and informal educator in relation to his work in Jerusalem.


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