Sukkot happenings for singles

"Growing up in the UK, we never experienced that; here in Israel, with Sukkot everywhere, you live the chag on the streets,” said Anna Donen from the UK.

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October 10, 2019 22:33
THE JERUSALEM March – this year on October 17

THE JERUSALEM March – this year on October 17 . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Since childhood I have always loved Sukkot. Coming so soon after the intensity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it’s a festival when we literally go outside and enjoy the company of others.

Indeed, many of the customs of Sukkot like sitting in the sukkah, simchat beit hashoevot (celebrations remembering the water libation ceremony in the Temple), and welcoming in the ushpizin (the Biblical guests) to our sukkot, places a clear emphasis on socializing.

Spending Sukkot in Israel, as I have done since making aliyah 16 years ago, is extra special as you can enjoy tiyulim (hikes) and outdoor activities. Sukkot is a reminder of how lucky we are to live in Israel – the weather is perfect – it’s fun just to walk around and soak up the festive atmosphere.

Anna Donen, an olah from the UK, said “I just love being in Jerusalem for Sukkot. Going on tiyulim (hikes), dancing at simchat beit hashoevot and sitting in the cafes in Mamilla with my friends is really special. Growing up in the UK, we never experienced that; here in Israel, with Sukkot everywhere, you live the chag on the streets.”

In order to make the most of Sukkot, it’s important to plan ahead to make the most of your time. This overview of what’s happening for Jerusalemites should help you make this Sukkot your best one yet!

Firstly, for many, going to synagogue is a central element of their festivities, with the singing of Hallel and shaking of the Arba Minim (Four Species). However, the synagogue isn’t just a place of prayer – but also a place of meeting. If you are single and made aliyah to a city like Jerusalem, it’s important to attach yourself to a community. Sukkot is an ideal opportunity to check out the communities of Jerusalem and find where you feel most comfortable.

Particularly welcoming communities for young people who will have services and activities over Sukkot are Shira Hadasha on Emek Refaim St.; Nitzanim on Asher St. in Baka; the ELC (Emek Learning Center) along Emek Refaim St.; and Shir Hadash, which now has two locations: on Yaakov Rubin St. in Talbiyeh and along Emek Refaim St.

Jerusalem’s Old City is really a special place to be over Sukkot – it’s literally bursting with people – both Israelis and tourists over chol hamoed. Birkat kohanim at the Western Wall is a popular attraction – be warned though, it’s well worth walking into the Old City that morning as the roads are closed. Other popular activities in the Old City over chol hamoed are the performances and concerts by the Jaffa Gate, in the Cardo and at the square by the Hurva Synagogue.

Avi Narrow-Tilonsky, who moved to Israel from New Jersey, makes a point of going to the Old City and eating in the restaurants.
“I just love sitting in Sukkot at restaurants,” he says. “I also try to be in the Old City on the morning of Birkat Kohanim and spending time in the Mamilla Mall.”

There is a tradition in Israel of going on tiyulim over chol hamoed. While there are some stunning tiyulim up North, there are also several hiking tracks more locally in Jerusalem which are also real fun. Going on a tiyul locally in Jerusalem saves time and means you won’t need to sit in traffic.

Avital Chevern, who made aliyah from the UK, said, “Sukkot is really a time when we go outside and enjoy nature. There are so many outdoor activities in Israel over Sukkot – including Jerusalem. If I want to stay local, I often go with friends on tiyulum to the Hadassah Ein Kerem and Kennedy Park area. There are some beautiful hikes there – including water ones.”

NEFESH B’NEFESH have organized a chol hamoed activity as usual. Yigal Grayeff, who moved to Israel from the UK said, “In general I work over chol hamoed, but I take the day off for the NBN trip. It’s a good way to meet new people and have a fun day out.”

This year it will be taking place on Tuesday, October 15, at Deerland Park in the Gush Etzion, 20 minutes away from Jerusalem. Activities will include a small zip line, petting zoo, carousel, ropes course, climbing wall, wildlife reserve, swings, and archery. A bus will leaving from the Inbal Hotel at 9 a.m. Check out the Nefesh B’Nefesh website for more details.

JICNY Israel – an organization for young professionals run by Jodi Samuels – has a “Sushi & Wine in the Sukkah” event for ages 20s and 30s on Wednesday, October 16. JICNY host events through the week and over Shabbat throughout the year and it’s well worth checking out their website – JICNY.com – for more details of this and other events.

Comedy for Koby, a favorite for young people, will be performing a Sukkot comedy with Elon Gold. He will be in Jerusalem with Avi Liberman at the Beit Shmuel Hirsch Theatre on Tuesday evening, October 15.

Another popular activity for Jerusalem’s singles is the Moshav Country Fair in Mevo Modi’im, which this year will take place on Wednesday, October, 16. Performers will include Shlomo Katz, the Solomon Brothers and Chaim David.

“The Moshav Fair is a chol hamoed highlight for me,” said Kenny Rosen, who made aliyah from Teaneck, New Jersey. “There is always good music and it’s a good place to see friends.”

If you’re looking for a relaxing night out, it’s worth checking out the bars and restaurants in town – many have special performers and entertainers over chol hamoed. On Tuesday, October 15, the Solomon Brothers are playing at Nocturno restaurant on Bezalel Street in town. Also, the First Station will have activities during the evenings of chol hamoed – some of the restaurants will have sukkot you can eat in.

The OU Israel Center along Keren Hayesod St. have a group for senior singles called, “Linking our Lives2gether.” They have an event for olim, ages 60-75, on Wednesday, October 16. There will be a dairy dinner, costing NIS 50.

Throughout chol hamoed, many museums are free and have special attractions for Sukkot.

“Last year I really enjoyed the Kite Festival at the Israel Museum,” said Fruma Farkas, who made aliyah from the US. “The museums here in Jerusalem have great exhibits over Sukkot and I enjoy going to them with friends.”

A BELOVED chol hamoed activity for the more orthodox – for both males and females – is dancing at simchat beit hashoavot. Michael Klinger, an oleh from the UK, said, “Each Sukkot I go to Mea She’arim and we have a great time going from simchat beit hashoevah to simchat beit hashoevah. It’s so special soaking up the atmosphere and celebrating the chag on the streets of Jerusalem.”

Other enjoyable outdoor activities over Sukkot are: The Jerusalem March this year on Thursday, October 17; the Derech Beit Lehem street fair on Tuesday, October 15; visiting the Safra Square Sukkah, open throughout Sukkot; and free tours run by the Jerusalem municipality at Safra Square, on Tuesday and Wednesday, 15-16 October.

Special events this year which cater for young people are:

1) The Sahrana in Sacher Park on Tuesday, October 15. There will be a major show of singers from Kurdistan, together with singers and dance bands.

2) The World Taste Festival, Tuesday through Thursday, October 15-17, at Habonim Park, at the foot of the Old City Walls near the Jaffa Gate. The World Taste Festival is an international culinary event that crosses borders and peoples and connects Jerusalem to different cultures from around the world.

3) “Artur” – The Beta Art Marathon – Thursday and Friday, October 17-18. During the marathon, there will be seven art tours at various locations.

4) Ushpizin Poetry Marathon, Confederate House, 12 Paul Emile Botta St., Jerusalem, October 17. An evening with singing and poetry events.

Hoshana Raba, Simchat Torah and Hakafot Shniyot:

The end of Sukkot is a festival of Jewish life in Jerusalem. Thousands of young Jews come to connect with Judaism and other Jews.

Firstly, over Hoshana Raba, which this year is Saturday night, October 19, synagogues and institutions put on learning programs, which are packed with young people. As well as interesting talks and lectures there are also refreshments and often musical performances, which provide a more informal environment for people to interact.

One particularly popular program is at Heichal Shlomo along King George St. Rabbi Moshe Taragin, a well-known teacher at Yeshivat Har Etzion who will be teaching during the evening, said, “I enjoy the spectrum of topics from halacha to Jewish thought to chassidut and of course, Tanach – in three languages. Sitting side by side with a broad range of Am Yisrael on the Chag of Sukkot just feels ‘right.’ A great opportunity for English speakers to attend a ‘broader event.’”

Other popular Hoshana Raba programs are at Matan on Ralbag St. and at Beit Avichai along King George St. The Begin Center has an interesting program featuring musician Yonatan Razel. Many synagogues – like Ramban on Amatsia St., Nitzanim on Asher St. and Yakar on Lamed Hey St. – also have programs catering to young people.

FOR MANY young people, the climax of Sukkot is Simchat Torah – whatever religious affiliation one belongs to, you can find your place. In the evening and morning there is dancing and a good time is had by all!

Synagogues which are popular for young people are: 1) Shir Chadash – on Yaakov Rubin St. in Talbiyeh and Emek Refaim; 2) Shira Hadasha along Emek Refaim; 3) The Emek Learning Center along Emek Refaim St.; 4) Nitzanim on Asher St. in Baka; 5) Ramban on Amatsia St., 6) Yakar on Lamed Hey St., 8) Kol Haneshama along Asher St.; 9) Chovevei Tzion in Talbiya; and 10) Yedidya in Baka.

David Berman, originally from Sunderland, UK, enjoys going to Shira Hadasha for Simchat Torah. “Women are given an equal role in the celebrations and [it’s] very festive,” he said.

Narrow-Tilonsky says, “I always enjoy the dancing and atmosphere at Yakar. A mix of native Israelis and olim enjoying the chag. The women dance inside and the men dance outside in the streets – a real celebration of Judaism in Jerusalem!”

Elli Lifschitz from New York chooses to go to Nahlaot: “I like to go to Ma’ayanot and Va’ani Tefilah in Nahlaot. You can feel the true joy of completing the three-week process of intense spiritual growth with the set of books that continue to transform us.”

To finish off the week of festivities, there are Hakafot Shniyot (“Second Hakafot”) which takes place on the evening following Sukkot – the same day as Simchat Torah evening in the Diaspora. Two popular locations for singles are the Kraft Stadium at the top of Sacher Park and at the Merkaz Tarbut Ha’amim culture center along Emek Refaim. If you want to carry on the dancing and good vibes of Simchat Torah, it’s well worth going with friends.


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