12 Places to Look for Sukkot in Jerusalem
by Judy Lash Balint
A non-Jewish friend coming to Israel on business this week wrote to ask if I could explain what an American Jewish colleague had warned him about in advance of his visit. “Don’t freak out, but the whole country will be on vacation, and people will be sitting around in these little flimsy booths…”
Yes, I confirmed to my friend: A few days after Yom Kippur, Israelis celebrate Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, as it’s known in English. For seven days, we commemorate the time our ancestors spent wandering in the desert as well as pondering the temporary nature of our own existence.
How do we do this? By actually building and living in temporary booths (that’s the meaning of the word Sukkot) and Jerusalem is one of the best places to see how many variations and interpretations of a “booth” people can come up with and attach to their home or business or even build in their parking spot on the street.
So here are my suggestions to my friend, and anyone who happens to be coming to Jerusalem, of a few of the best places to see the most interesting sukkot this year–the holiday goes on for seven days, so there’s plenty of time to plan a Sukkah route.
Have any favorites of your own? Add them to the comments section below.
1. Start out with one of the grandest sukkot–that would be at the President’s Residence on Hanassi Street in Rehavia. President Reuven Rivlin holds court at an open house in his sukka one morning of the intermediate days. You’ll get a cold drink, a hand shake and a photo op with the president–providing you have the patience to stand on line for a while…
2. Head over to the Jewish Quarter in the Old City via St James Road. Head straight down to the main square in front of the restored Hurva Synagogue and join the crowds reveling in the huge sukka there.
3. Walk a few streets north into the back streets of the Jewish Quarter and look up on the rooftops and into the courtyards. You’ll see mattresses piled up and kids running in and out of their neighbor’s sukkot.
6. Vying for the title of sukkot with the best views are those in the restaurants atop the Mamilla Alrov Mall just outside Jaffa Gate. Try Kedma on the roof level, or Cafe Rimon or Aroma on the mall level. A few steps away is Jerusalem’s town square, Kikar Safra, which boasts the world’s largest sukkah, sponsored by the Jerusalem municipality.
7. For the strictly ecologically-minded, walk through the green space across from the Jerusalem Theater on Chopin Street (it’s known locally as the chursha) and spot the simple sukka amongst the trees.
8. For a change of pace, walk down Emek Refaim or the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall in the center of town–almost every restaurant and cafe has its own sukka. Back when the kosher Burger King was in business this was one of the best Kodak moments…
9. End your Sukka tour with a stroll through the mostly orthodox neighborhoods of Geula and the Bukharan Quarter. Keep your eyes wide open and look up as you meander through the back alleys. Even the tiniest apartment will have a sukka perilously perched on the balcony.
10. Oh, don't miss the yurt sukkah on Zichron Tuvia Street in the funky, mostly religious neighborhood of Nachlaot.
11. And, yes, you might just see a sukka at your bus stop too…
12. Anyone for the Loading Zone Sukkah?
All photos (except where noted) © Judy Lash Balint. All rights reserved.
Judy Lash Balint is a Jerusalem-based freelance writer. She is author of Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times and Jerusalem Diaries: What's Really Happening in Israel. Judy hosted the Jerusalem Diaries Show on VoiceofIsrael.com and is currently a staff member at a leading Jerusalem think tank. Her articles have appeared in publications worldwide.