We've been leading walking tours of Boston for about ten years.
So, when we were asked to lead a virtual walking tour of Shushan, the popular destination in the Middle East,
we knew that we would climb walls for this opportunity.
Once known as a "Hamanish" Middle Eastern city, Shushan has become what some might call
"Estherial." It's a double-walled oasis, with several nearby villages. Since the new Queen rose in power, many of the ethnic community have been
spending more time and money inside the outer wall. A few, including one we're about to meet, now have occasion to visit inside the palace.
Let's walk, then, the Jewish Friendship Trek of Shushan...careful, as we approach the well-used side gate to the outer wall, try not to get hung up at any
- (1) Our first stop is just outside the City walls. You might
recognize, the bearded overdressed, intelligent looking purveyor of ice
cream at his perennial post. That's right, its Mordi & his Kosher glidah
(ice cream, for those who haven't walked Tel Aviv beach) peddler cart.
Notice that we're just outside Shushan's Dung Gate, so the odors are not
from the ice cream. Mordi likes his location because sooner or later,
everyone needs to pass by him. In fact, the question he gets asked most
frequently, is "Where are the facilities?" His response always is the
same "Don't go until you buy my glidah."
- (2) Look up, high above the Dung Gate, on top of the City's outer
you'll sometimes see, broadcasting with her megaphone, Dr. Ruse. Her
station is known
by the call letters W*H*A*W - an acronym for We Hear All from the
When broadcasting with her megaphone from on top of the wall, Dr. Ruse
so that she can take questions from royality inside the City as well as
from riff-raff purveyors outside Shushan's wall.
Dr. Ruse is the
in a long line of Drs. Ruse born with a Talmudic attitude toward
sex - her commentaries are either extensive or direct.
She also is very PC or adaptable. For example, one day the King called
and asked her whether one should satisfy himself after executing
a Queen. Dr. Ruse' immediate comment was "Yes." Totally dissatisfied
her opinion, the King intimated that broadcasters also are dispensable.
Realizing a more
politically correct comment was required, she quickly rephrased her
to say that a King might seek solace in his harem and/or add a new wife
Anyway, now she and Ahasuevros, often share late night chit-chat on the
air - should we say, on the wall.
- (3) Just inside the City's outer wall, after passing through the
Gate, we see the one room shack which houses
the City's leading newspaper, The Shushan Times. The paper's (or
editorial policy and logo is "All the news to please a King."
has been published by the Ben Yehudah family for centuries, passed down
from generation to generation from the well-known, crackerjack reporter
and editor named Ezra. Ezra was so good that people, even today,
recognize his writing
without a last name in his byline.
The Shushan Times prides itself on avoiding controversy by sticking to
fallacies, misunderstandings, myths, and Loshon Hara. In fact, when one
King's advisors, Bigdeal, prior to his own dismemberment for plotting
to shorten the kings's reign, accused the paper of
investigative reporting; he received a prompt response from Katherine
Ben Yehudah, the first woman publisher
in Persia. She said proudly (and I quote) "The quality of our reporting
has earned us a place right here next to the Dung Gate."
The Shushan Times first use of 3 inch bold headlines on its
front page occurred on Adar 14, after the demise of the infamous,
Shushan villain named Haman. On that day, the local bakery, known as
Taam Rah, switched to all Kosher ingredients, decided to stay closed
on Shabbos, and introduced a 3-cornered, laxative pastry, which was
an immediate hit with Shushan's senior citizens.
- (4) Proceeding down the main street, Derech Hamelech, toward the
we pass by the popular Shushan Deli (which also switched to Kosher after
Haman's demise, and stopped serving "Ham-an eggs"). The Shushan Deli
serves a variation of one familiar dish.
The story goes that one time the King asked Esther
"What do Jews eat for lunch?" and she responded "We don't make a
big tsimmes out of the noontime meal outside of the Holy Land." Since
that time, beside "chips,"
tsimmes is added to the felafel sandwiches.
- (5) Moving on, we pass through the City's inner wall onto
the palace grounds. The first (and quite magnificant) thing we see as
within these inner walls is the Shushan Superdome which was just
a couple of years ago.
It originally was conceived by one of the King's Advisors named Bigdome.
In fact, he and his fellow co-advisor,
Bigdeal, are no longer working for the King. While its original purpose
to accommodate big
suppers and spectator hangings, today it chiefly is used for bingo
nights, antique shows, and exhibitions.
- (6) The next site on the palace grounds is the tiny Eunuchs' Shul.
It's hidden in one corner
of the Palace, just outside the harem itself. It serves a fairly well
defined daily minyan whose popularity has increased since
Haman left power.
The Eunuchs' Shul's Aron Kodish (the ark, of course)
purportedly was designed and built by an early immigrant carpenter in
Shushan, who was looking for opportunities to use his woodworking skills
(not an easy task in a country where trees don't exactly grow in
forests). Notice, the handcarved lions and the Star Trek split finger
- (7) Further, on the palace grounds, is Esther's studio
apartment in one corner of the harem. She's not exactly a neatness freak
so we might have to push things aside to look in.
Notice the dressers
shelves brim full with jars and bottles. Esther, particularly,
is adept at formulating and bottling oils, perfumes and make-up. She
also has a great wine collection. The King didn't stand a chance of
choosing anyone other than her when she visited him well-adorned with
parfumary creations and two wine flasks. These days, she is packaging
of these perfumes under the brand name of "Intoxicate." Check out the
souvenir shop later if you would like to purchase a bottle.
- (8) Our last site in the palace is the King's boudoir. We're only
allowed to stay a minute, so open your eyes wide.
That 100 yard long, 25 yard wide four poster king size bed
in front of us is
marked with off-sides lines, end-zones, and newly laid sheets of satin
and flax. Now that Esther is both quarterback and coach here,
she is trying to convince the King to install more dressers and
shelves as well as a CossackTrak jogging machine.
Esther also is
persuade the King to place a mezuzah on the boudoir's entrance door.
That may have to wait, however, until she and the King resolve
the question of how they are going to raise their kids. Esther is
that the children be raised Jewish. To help in this regard, Mordecai
has suggested to Esther that she read to the King each night a chapter
Blu Greenberg's latest book, "How to Keep a Kosher Palace."
- (9) Our final site on this walking tour of Shushan can be found
just before we leave the Palace grounds. It's the Shu-Shu-Shushan
and Souvenir Shop. It's quite large and already has an
extensive collection of books and gifts. Everything from early editions
The Babylonian Talmud to groggers and three-cornered baking utensils.
It, also, now is
most recent line of "Gifts by Esther." These include her perfume
"Intoxicate" and her book, "Tznius in the Harem." A fine purchase
to remember this modest tour by.
Hope you enjoyed our walking tour of Shushan; and, we're reminded by
the Queen, that the giftshop is
open late and that, if you're still in Shushan next week, you
might want to participate in the Shushan symposium on prayer, feminism,