Mask of Purim: Showing Up


The upcoming holiday of Purim and the story of Esther remind me to reveal myself and take off my mask.  Many Jews celebrate Purim by dressing up and putting on a mask. The semester I lived in Jerusalem, was the first time I saw Purim could be as large a celebration as Halloween in Los Angeles. Wandering the streets of Tel Aviv, I was amazed at the number of Esthers, and Hamens that bumped into me in the celebrating crowds.

This holiday celebration includes being confused about good and evil. This shadow between good and evil and the line of intentions and when they become actions informs some of my travels and decisions. Sometimes we forget that at the corner where we work at the 7-11 is a man who is from Burma who speaks five languages and was a tour guide at Schwedagon Pagoda. We forget that this man in front of us has a history and wears a mask.  Most of the people we interact with have some issue that plagues them and causes them to wear a mask and hide some part of themselves.
While I have often picked easy costumes for my work, such as coming to school as a Crayola crayon, in other areas of my life I have proceeded differently.  Lately I have picked problematic travel destinations. Being in Sri Lanka this summer, so soon after the civil war ended caused me to really examine why I travel and where do I go. Being in an area with barbed wire around the beaches was nerve-wracking for me, but meeting people who were so happy to have peace and so welcoming to us as strangers to their country made it worth it.

Having recently watched, “Strangers No More”, the Academy Award-winning Documentary Short film about an amazing school, I am thinking about Tel Aviv, Strangers and Masks. In Billy Joel’s song, “The Stranger,” he sings, “We all have a face that we hide away forever, and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone.” Travel allows us an opportunity to break from our every day routine and get outside ourselves.

When I travel, I hope to learn about the place, the people, the history, and the culture. Mostly I learn about myself. When my husband George and I were away for nearly a year, I cried in the beginning on almost every country. I even cried while snorkeling one time. I thought he would not notice.  When we travel, our masks are off and we are the strangers. I frequently need help to find the bathroom, the bus, the hotel; everything is up in the air. Our daily routine no longer is there to support us.
I think of the young students showing up at Bialik-Rogozin School, having survived long walks in the desert, seeing parents killed and now managing their first day of school in a language they do not understand. The teachers seem so kind, compassionate and willing to help. The children of Darfur, South Africa and Eritrea who show up and move forward with hope and potential inspire me.

Adam Rosenthal writes in Koach:

“Each of us has emotions, thoughts and aspirations which we conceal on a daily basis. We hide these parts of ourselves by presenting others with a prepared image. We wear masks, denying others, and sometimes even ourselves, a glimpse of the vulnerable “stranger.”

I am thrilled that our travel blog will have this new home at the Jewish Journal but now I wonder if I can really show my travel stories and travel foibles and take off my mask to reveal what our travels are really like. I ask myself: will anyone care to read about our adventures?

Travel has given me the opportunity to evolve from a sidekick to a superhero. I have learned so much about my relationship and myself. I did not want to quit my job and travel for a year as a test of our relationship. I wanted to be engaged or I would not go but I did go and eventually we did get engaged.
The story of Purim remembers Esther who hid her Jewishness in the beginning and Haman who hid his anti-Semitism. In the end, both must reveal their true selves. This is what travel does for us. We must show up as who we really are without our masks.

Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai foil the plan of Haman, King Ahashuerus’s prime minster, to exterminate all the Jews of Persia.  All secrets are revealed, all masks are off, and once again the Jewish Story continues. Join me March 24 to hear about the story of how the Jews have been welcomed and sent away for centuries in Morocco.

The Megillah Esther literally means “to reveal what is hidden,” join me as we wander and wonder about the history of the Jews, our planet and mainly ourselves.

Lisa and George’s news:

Our blog is now hosted at the Jewish Journal

I hope to see you THURSDAY 7pm March 24 at Stephen S Wise Temple for my travel talk: “Uncovering Jewish Morocco.”

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of the website WeSaidGoTravel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. Niver is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc. Look for her memoir in Fall 2023 from Post Hill Press/Simon and Schuster. With more than 150,000 followers across social media, she has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and listed on IMDb, and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. You can find Lisa Niver talking travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, Satellite Media Tours, The Jet Set TV and Orbitz travel webisodes as well as her YouTube channel, where her WeSaidGoTravel videos have over 1.7 million views. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors and been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She has been a judge for the Gracie Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media, and has run 15 travel competitions on her website, publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty times.   Niver has published more than 2000 articles, in more than three dozen magazines and journals including National Geographic, Wired, Teen Vogue, HuffPost Personal, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, AAA Explorer Magazine, American Airways, Delta Sky, enRoute (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, BuzzFeed, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, USA Today, TODAY, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo. Awards National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards 2021 Winner: Book Critic: Ms. Magazine “Untamed: Brave Means Living From the Inside Out” 2019 Winner: Soft News Feature for Film/TV: KTLA TV “Oscars Countdown to Gold with Lisa Niver” 2019 Finalist for: Soft News, Business/Music/Tech/Art Southern California Journalism Awards 2022 Finalist: Book Criticism 2021 Winner: Technology Reporting 2021 Finalist: Book Criticism 2020 Winner: Print Magazine Feature: Hemispheres Magazine, “Painter by the Numbers, Rembrandt” 2020 Finalist: Online Journalist of the Year, Activism Journalism, Educational Reporting, Broadcast Lifestyle Feature 2019 Finalist: Broadcast Television Lifestyle Segment for “Ogden Ski Getaway” 2018 Finalist: Science/Technology Reporting, Travel Reporting, Personality Profile 2017 Winner: Print Column “A Journey to Freedom over Three Passovers” Social Media Presence YouTube Channel: We Said Go Travel (1.7 million views) Short form video:TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts Twitter: lisaniver (90,000 followers) Instagram: lisaniver (24,000 followers) Pinterest: We Said Go Travel (20,000 followers and over 70,000 monthly views) Facebook: lisa.niver (5,000 followers); We Said Go Travel (3,000 followers) LinkedIn: lisaellenniver (9000 contacts)

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