(photo credit: AVI KANER)
Among the Sukkot traditions in Jerusalem is open house at the President’s sukkah, which the public is invited to come to meet the president and his wife, and enjoy the entertainment for all ages.
Another tradition is for schoolchildren to help the president decorate the sukkah. Because none of the youngsters are as tall as Rivlin, it’s the president’s job to pin the chained streamers to the sukkah’s roof struts.
The crop of eager youngsters who came Thursday had achieved the highest scores in an essay competition for grades 3-6 students conducted by the Israel Center for Innovation in Education. They represented the Yavnieli School in Rehovot, the Saadia HaGaon School in Or Akiva, and the Vitkin and Sinai schools in Rishon Lezion.
Rivlin told them he hoped the sukkah, with its tradition of welcome, would become a symbol of peace between Israel and her neighbors. The president explained Israel belongs to “all the people of this land,” and for this reason Arabs born here may not be deported. The ideal, he said, is that Israelis live together in peace and harmony.
In addition to the work of the school children, the décor of the sukkah was enhanced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Village Development with displays of fruits, flowers and vegetables. Each year an additional ministry also puts on a display related to its projects.
This year it’s the turn of the Ministry of Health, which is promoting better nutrition. Its exhibit targets obesity in children, caused by eating junk food, overeating, and lack of exercise.
As well, the ministry hopes to get its message out to adults about preventing and treating cancer, heart ailments and strokes.
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman underscored the importance of linking health with Sukkot. His ministry invests a great deal in diverse, health related activities in order to reach as many members of the public as possible, he said.
In years gone by, the president customarily stood in his sukkah, shook the hand of every visitor, and posed for the cameras. That ceased during the tenure of Shimon Peres, whose staff would not allow a man of his advanced age to stand for so many hours. Instead Peres used to go out three or four times during the morning to greet his guests, shaking hands here and there, and posing for photos but not emulating his predecessors who stood in the one place for hours.
Rivlin has followed Peres’s lead and also emerges two or three times throughout the morning to greet guests and pose for photos.
Some of the guests who have traveled some distance to be in Jerusalem for the holiday are disappointed not to be able to make personal contact with the president. In cases of frail or physically disabled people, members of staff try to organize a meeting with the president.
This year’s open sukkah will take place on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors are requested to bring an ID card or a passport.
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