When Purim comes to town it is always remind me of the Cinderella story. For one day only, you can be who (or what) you want.
In 1928, on the streets of Tel Aviv, the Cinderella story came to life. 16-year-old Tzipora Tzabari was born in Yemen. She came with her family to this coastal city that had been nothing but sand dunes a few years before. She had many dreams for her future. Her father was the ‘milk delivery service’ for Tel Aviv and was sadly too sick to work. This meant that Tzipora had to put her dreams on hold and take his place at work. She rode her donkey and cart to deliver milk to the rich families of Tel Aviv.
One day, Tzipora noticed a poster calling for the young women of Tel Aviv to nominate themselves for the annual ‘Queen Esther’ contest. It was a part of the largest Purim festival in the area and hosted by a very famous dancer of the time, Baruch Agadati.
Excited by the prospect, Tzipora asked her father’s permission to participate. He agreed and she was chosen as one of 8 finalists in what would today be thought of as a beauty contest. But back in 1928, it was simply a contest to become Queen Esther for a day. Tzipora won the contest and received a prize of a Chanukiah from Dizengoff, the legendary mayor of Tel Aviv.
This poor girl from a Yemenite neighborhood became famous in town. She began acting and modelling. Every journalist wanted to write her story and take her picture. Her story was being told in every paper:
Tzipora, the first Yemenite Queen Esther leaves for Europe in search of fame. She lived in Berlin before WW2 and found herself in the same social circle with stars like Marlene Dietrich. After jumping through numerous hoops (acting jobs in Germany were in short supply for an actress with such dark skin), she left that world to join the circus. In the 70’s, she moved back to Israel, living anonymously in the Yemenite quarter of Tel Aviv.
She passed away in 1994. On her tombstone it’s written: ‘Tzipora Tzabari – The lady that Mayor Dizengoff called Queen Esther’.
Tzipora Tzabari became the most famous Queen Esther…at least until Madonna came along.
Click here for the Hebrew version of this story on Ynet.