Sukkot in Israel: Did You Know...
It can be a truly challenging obstacle to maneuver through the schach (i.e. palm fronds/reeds) being dragged by young and old alike, shlepped on trucks, bicycles, strollers. The city of Jerusalem cuts downs palm branches and leaves them alongside the roads and sidewalks, inviting its residents both religious and secular to come pick up as much as they need to celebrate this joyous festival.
It is easy to follow the custom of decorating the sukkah with seasonal fruits, as the pomegranates are by now falling off the trees and the fresh dates turning that deep honey brown so ready to melt in your mouth. (If you have never tried this, it is an experience to be remembered!)
Sleeping outside gives people a chance to better connect with nature: The branches which make up the roof are intricately woven to allow you to see the stars - a part of the mitzvah which ensures that we recall the miracle of our universe. And because in Israel it isn't yet the cold season, many families enjoy this special last adventure before the fall rains begin.
All the trappings of the home create an illusion that protection comes from having the right security system, deadbolt locks, and window bars. In the sukkah, we can feel God’s protection, God’s watchfulness, like the Jews who left Egypt to follow God into the desert.
While some sleep 7 nights and eat every meal within the Sukkah, this week gives Israelis yet another chance to do what they love to do best - to wander the land, find a perfect spot, and have a picnic. Kids running around, taking hikes, and camping in whatever landscape pleases you, Israel is such an incredible place to be for this special holiday.
The country is alive with festivities for families - the Jerusalem March, the Hot Air Balloon Festivals, and the bird migrations that begin near the Hula Valley.
Because Sukkot is a pilgrimage holiday, there is an influx of tourists coming to Israel to experience the magic of the holiday. People flock from around the world to fulfill the mitzvah of the pilgrimage to our holiest city, Jerusalem - and not all of them are Jewish. Many Christians believe that the messiah will arrive during Sukkot and so thousands come every year to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Yom Kippur War in 1973 continued through Sukkot, and many soldiers found themselves fulfilling the mitzvot out in the fighting fields, still giving thanks for our land, our journey, and the abundance of goodness we cherish here in Israel.
Nearly the whole country is on vacation this week - and every corner of Israel is filled with families coming together in some way to touch the history of the land and enjoy what some consider to be the most joyous celebration in the most wonderful time of year - a celebration of our journey home to Israel which continues to thrive after so many years.