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McCain: Purim = Halloween?

— When McCain made a foreign policy gaffe in Jordan on Tuesday, it was Sen. Joe Lieberman who quietly pointed out the mistake, giving McCain an opportunity to correct himself in front of the international press corps. In Israel yesterday, NBC's Lauren Appelbaum reports, Lieberman once again intervened when McCain made an incorrect reference about the Jewish holiday Purim -- by calling the holiday "their version of Halloween here."
 
McCain made the incorrect statement during a press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak after touring the Israeli city of Sderot to view buildings damaged by Hamas rocket fire. McCain was discussing the numerous rock attacks on the city. "Nine hundred rocket attacks in less than three months, an average of one every one to two hours. Obviously this puts an enormous and hard to understand strain on the people here, especially the children. As they celebrate their version of Halloween here, they are somewhere close to a 15-second warning, which is the amount of time they have from the time the rocket is launched to get to safety. That's not a way for people to live obviously."
 
Purim is not the equivalent of an Israeli Halloween, Appelbaum notes. The holiday -- although a joyous one -- commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from mass execution. When Sen. Lieberman had a chance to speak at the press conference, he placed the blame of the mistake on himself. "I had a brief exchange with one of the mothers whose children was in there in a costume for Purim," Lieberman, who is Jewish and celebrates the holiday, said. "And it's my fault that I said to Senator McCain that this is the Israeli version of Halloween. It is in the sense because the kids dress up and it's a very happy holiday and actually it is in the sense that the sweets are very important of both holidays."
 
"Could I just say that I understand this is the holiday of Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther," McCain later said. Those in attendance quickly made light of the mistake.
 
McCain's mistake wasn't a big deal. But what is interesting, Appelbaum points out, is Lieberman's role during this trip. In two days, Lieberman has intervened twice in front of the press -- once helping McCain with a correction on Sunnis/Shiites and once putting the blame on himself regarding the description of Purim.