Another Perspective

The Real Purim Story

This might correct an Egyptian cleric's misunderstanding of the Jewish holiday observed yesterday and what role Starbucks might have played in it.

By 3.12.09

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On January 25, Egyptian cleric Safwat Higazi rocked viewers of Al-Nas TV with a mind-boggling revelation. Here, courtesy of MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), are some highlights from his broadcast:

Today, I would like to talk to you about the Starbucks coffee shop. Starbucks is to be found in Mecca, in Al-Madina…as well as in Cairo. Starbucks is to be found everywhere, with this logo.

Has any of you ever wondered who this woman with a crown on her head is? Why should we boycott Starbucks? I will tell you, so you will know why you should boycott this company, and what this logo stands for.

The girl in the Starbucks logo is Queen Esther. Do you know who Queen Esther was and what the crown on her head means? This is the crown of the Persian kingdom. This queen is the queen of the Jews. She is mentioned in the Torah, in the Book of Esther. The girl you see is Esther, the queen of the Jews in Persia.

King Xerxes gave an order that the seven most beautiful girls in the kingdom be brought to him. So they held contests and auditions, and selected the seven most beautiful virgins, one of whom was the Jewish Esther, whose uncle, Mordecai -- or actually, it was her cousin's brother -- was a villain.

It was Mordecai who hatched this plot. Esther was one of the seven girls brought before King Xerxes in the palace. When Esther, who was very beautiful, was shown to King Xerxes, she captured his heart, and he chose her to be his queen. He placed a crown on her head, and the crown you see here [Higazi indicates the Starbucks logo] is the crown of the kingdom of Xerxes, and this is Esther, who became Queen of Persia, instead of Queen Vashti…

We want Starbucks to be shut down throughout the Arab and Islamic world…It is inconceivable that in Mecca and Medina there will be a picture of Queen Esther.

Safwat Higazi was certainly on to something in his Starbucks expose, but the choleric cleric missed the true significance of his own discovery. So here, for the first time in the history of the world, is the real story of Esther, Mordecai and the Jewish holiday of Purim:

The Old Testament's Book of Esther describes events that took place in the court of Xerxes I, who ruled Persia from 486 -- 465 BC -- in other words, about 2,500 years ago. Xerxes favored an official named Haman, and "advanced him and seated him higher than any of his fellow-officials." (Esther 3:2) Haman was a physicist and administrator of genius, and his mission was to oversee Xerxes' nuclear weapons program. But Haman ran afoul of Persia's powerful Israel Lobby, which defamed him with its usual combination of lies and half-truths. Deeply offended, Haman implored Xerxes to abolish the Israel Lobby. King Xerxes agreed, and issued a Royal Edict calling for the destruction of all the Zionists in his kingdom -- and not, as the Book of Esther wrongly maintains, of all the Jews.

With the Israel Lobby on the verge of extinction, Mordecai -- the Mossad's station chief in Sussa, the administrative capital of the Persian empire -- swung into action. He urgently cabled -- or rather cameled, since cables didn't exist back then -- Mossad Headquarters in Tel Aviv to send him their most seductive agent, and shortly thereafter, Ms. Esther Feigenbaum, ("the Blond Bombshell of Balfour Street") appeared on his doorstep. Mordecai claimed that, "He was foster father to Hadassah -- that is, Esther -- his uncle's daughter" (Esther 2:7), but this was merely a cover story. With the help of a few well-placed bribes, Mordecai infiltrated Esther into Xerxes' court, where she quickly caught Xerxes' eye (she really was a stunner!) and became his wife.

With his agent in place, Mordecai began to weave the web that would bring about Haman's downfall. He ordered Esther to invite Xerxes and Haman to a party -- what could be more innocent? -- and Esther complied. "'If it please Your Majesty [Esther told Xerxes] let Your Majesty and Haman come today to the feast that I have prepared for him.' The King commanded 'Tell Haman to hurry and do Esther's bidding.' So the King and Haman came to the feast that Esther prepared." (Esther 5:4 -- 5.5)

At the "wine feast" (as the Bible calls it) Esther pretended to be head-over-heels in love with Xerxes, but the real target of her attentions was Haman. Through winks, nods and related feminine wiles, Esther led the brilliant but sexually-naïve Persian to believe that she had the hots for him -- an impression only re-enforced at the close of the feast, when she asked King Xerxes to come again tomorrow, and to bring the charming Mr. Haman along with him.

Now Esther sprung the trap Mordecai had so well prepared. At the close of this second feast, while Xerxes staggered off half-drunk to his Royal Chamber, Esther had her faithful eunuch, Harbonah, escort Haman into her quarters via a secret passage. When Haman and Esther met, they promptly began making up for lost time. Little did hapless Haman suspect that Harbonah, whose real name was Goldberg ("Har" is Hebrew for mountain -- or "Berg" in German -- and "Bonah," of course," means "Precious Yellow Metal" in ancient Na'hautl) was Mordecai's Deputy. While Haman and Esther went at it, Harbonah informed Xerxes that there was something strange happening in the Queen's chambers. Together, Xerxes and Harbonah went off to investigate, and as the Book of Esther records:

When the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet room, Haman was lying prostrate on the couch on which Esther reclined. "Does he mean," cried the king, "to ravish the queen in my own palace?" No sooner did these words leave the king's lips than Haman's face blanched. Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, "What is more, a stake is standing at Haman's house, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai…" "Impale him on it!" the king ordered. So they impaled Haman on the stake which he had put up for Mordecai, and the king's fury abated. (Esther 7:8 -- 7:10)

In short, Haman fell victim to one of the oldest tricks in the book (and I'm not referring to the Good Book) and with his downfall, Persia's nuclear program was effectively side-lined -- a miraculous act of deliverance commemorated to this day in the Jewish festival of Purim.

It's important to bear in mind, however, that Iran's nuclear program was not destroyed, but merely delayed for a millennium or two. Today, Iranians have re-started Haman's program, and other states in the region are also planning to go nuclear. That's why the diabolically clever Mossad placed Queen Esther's picture on Starbucks coffee-houses throughout the Middle East. The threat to any latte-loving Iranian or Arab nuclear researcher is all-too-obvious: "Keep this up, sucker, and what happened to Haman will happen to you."

Any questions?

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About the Author

Joseph Shattan is the author of Architects of Victory: Six Heroes of the Cold War.