Purim, the joyous Jewish holiday, is celebrated across Israel and Palestine (PHOTOS)

Ultra Orthodox Jews celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim on March 8, 2012 in Benei Brak, Israel. The carnival-like Purim holiday is celebrated with parades and costume parties to commemorate the deliverance of the Jewish people from a plot to exterminate them in the ancient Persian empire 2,500 years ago, as described in the Book of Esther.</p>

Ultra Orthodox Jews celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim on March 8, 2012 in Benei Brak, Israel. The carnival-like Purim holiday is celebrated with parades and costume parties to commemorate the deliverance of the Jewish people from a plot to exterminate them in the ancient Persian empire 2,500 years ago, as described in the Book of Esther.

Israelis and Palestinians celebrated Purim on Thursday, a celebratory Jewish festival that commemorates the freeing of the Jews from destruction by Haman, an evil officer in the ancient Persian empire.

The tale is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther, and is the story of how Haman, an advisor to King Achashveirosh, takes out his rage against the Jews after Mordechai fails to bow before him as they cross paths, according to Aish.com.

Rather than trying to punish only Moderchai, Haman plotted revenge against the entire Jewish people. His plans end up being foiled by Mordechai and his adopted daughter, Queen Esther.

The day of deliverance is celebrated with feasts, singing, reading the Book of Esther (also called the Megillah) and most notably, masquerading in costumes. The custom of dressing up was first introduced among the Italian Jews around the end of the 15 century, influenced by Roman carnivals, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia. The custom spread to Jews all over the world. 

Here, we round up some of the best photos from Israel's Purim festivities. 

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