Jerusalem Diaries: 13 ways to tell it's Succot

13 Ways You Know It's Succot in Jerusalem...

sukkah 88 (photo credit: )
sukkah 88
(photo credit: )
13 Ways You Know It's Succot in Jerusalem... • You can't get on a bus without being poked in the rear a dozen times with someone's stray lulav. • The sweet smell of etrogim in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda (Yehuda Market) is overpowering. Huge crowds descend on the parking lot near the market to vie for the best lulav and etrog. • An enterprising bookstore is offering "Machzor rentals" for tourists who inadvertently left their holiday prayerbooks at home. • You've never seen such gaudy sukkah decorations in your life - unless you've been to Wal Mart on Xmas eve. Kiosks manned by bearded haredim in Meah Shearim are selling gold, green and red tinsel hangings - exact replicas of Xmas decorations in the old country. • Huge piles of schach (palm fronds for the roof of the succah) cover major city squares, and citizens are invited to take as much as they need for free. • The usual throngs are expected at the Western Wall for the thrice yearly observance of the ancient ritual of Birkat Cohanim - Blessing by the Priests - that takes place during the intermediate days. • Hotels report almost 100 percent occupancy as Israelis join foreign tourists in celebrating the week-long holiday. • Succot of every size and description can be seen on balconies, rooftops and in courtyards in every neighborhood of the city. Every kosher restaurant in town has one and boasts bigger and better holiday specials to entice customers. • Since the entire week of Succot is a national holiday you'll have a tough time deciding which festival/event to take part in. There's the first ever Festival of Israeli Comedy in Kiryat Shmona; the New Age Bereishit Festival at Dugit beach; The Tamar music and arts fest at the Dead Sea; Acco's acclaimed Fringe Theater Festival and a revival of the Carlebach Festival at Mevo Modi'in, to name just a few. • Touring the country is another favorite Sukkot activity and every political group is promoting trips to "See For Yourself." Hevron is a perennial favorite for Hol Hamo'ed (intermediate festival days) with a special opening of the Isaac Hall in the Cave of the Patriarchs that's normally off-limits to Jewish visitors. • Not to be left out are those Christian friends of Israel - the International Christian Embassy will bring 5,000 members from 80 nations (including China and Russia this year) to attend the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration. Opening ceremonies this year will take place in the majestic Sultan's Pool outdoor space just below the walls of the Old City. The Christian contingent will also take part in the Jerusalem March, another annual Succot event, dressed in costume of their countries of origin. Organizers claim that the Christian event will pump $10 million into the local economy, taking up 15,000 hotel room nights during their stay. • Another prominent group of tourists set to arrive are refugees from the young frum singles scene who make an annual migration to Jerusalem from the Upper West Side for Succot. Discreet meetings of earnest, well-scrubbed, modestly dressed twenty-somethings take place in all the major hotel lobbies. • And speaking of refugees - spare a thought for those 1,700 families expelled from their homes in Gush Katif in August. Most of them have still not been rehoused nor received the promised compensation, and are trying to maintain some semblance of family life in hotel rooms and dormitories all over the country. This year they won't need to be reminded of one of the essential messages of the Succot holiday - the flimsiness of our physical existence and our reliance on God for sustenance and shelter.