Grapevine: Joyful gathering

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 A young man holds up a giant etrog at a Sukkot market in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A young man holds up a giant etrog at a Sukkot market in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

ONE OF the joys of Sukkot was that because Sukkot in itself is an outdoor festival, seeing many people in the street, did not have the same connotation as the outdoor prayer services on Shabbat and other festivals. 

Families could be seen sukkah-hopping or going to some of the many events that help to make Sukkot the happy festival that it is. To get into the spirit of Sukkot, other than to participate in nature tours, the best events to attend were those organized by Chabad. 

All hassidic movements exude an aura of joy during Sukkot, but with or without alcohol to fuel their spirits, participants in a typical Chabad farbrengen – a gathering of joy – are truly ecstatic, as they sing and dance and display some very fancy footwork. Of all the hassidic movements, Chabad, when they get going, create an infectious cycle of joyful togetherness. 

That was the evening scene on the intermediate Wednesday of Sukkot, when Rabbi Yisroel Goldberg, the incredibly energetic and inventive director of Chabad of Rehavia, organized a grand Sukkot celebration in the courtyard of the Great Synagogue, with the blessing of the Great Synagogue Board, the Ginot Ha’ir Community Council, Mayor Moshe Lion and Deputy Mayor Hagit Moshe. The main attraction was celebrated hassidic singer Mendy Jerufi, who contributed to keeping people on their toes both literally and vocally, but credit also goes to versatile darbuka exponent Avihu, who not only plays the drum, but sings, dances and blows shofar. Avihu brought scores of small darbukas, which were distributed to the dozens of young children – most of whom were around eight-years-old and younger, and taught them how to play the drums. 

It was remarkable how quickly they caught on to the darbuka rhythms. When it seemed as though he had finished his act, all the drums were returned to the huge sacks in which he had brought them. But then when Jerufi began to sing to the accompaniment of an electronic keyboard that sounded like a full band, the youngsters, of their own accord, retrieved the darbukas to enhance the musical background – and it worked beautifully. What was also nice to see was the pleasure on the faces of fathers as they danced with their children in circles large and small, or just on their own with their children. There were also some exhibition dancers who danced alone. Goldberg, who is quite a talented dancer himself, with a great ability for high leaps, danced with the youngest of his sons, then went from circle to circle, joining in, then moving on. He also danced with children who had come with their mothers, but without their fathers and had hung shyly at the edge of the crowd. Free refreshments were also on hand in the sukkah. Goldberg invited everyone to come back for an encore, albeit without the musical accompaniment on Simhat Torah. 

Directors of all Chabad Centers around the world have to find their own funding, and to come up with ideas beyond the traditional gala dinner or radio and television phone-in. Thanks to the generosity of Rehavia resident David Israel, who acquired a Torah scroll that belonged to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson and donated it to Chabad of Rehavia, letters in the Torah are being raffled off, and people are very happy to have their names linked in perpetuity with that of the rebbe.

■ ONE OF the key Jerusalem attractions on Sukkot in years gone by was the annual Sukkot march through the city that brought diverse groups of people from all over the country, as well as participants in the Feast of Tabernacles organized by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. The Feast always attracts several thousands of Evangelists from around the globe. Many brought their national costumes with them and wore them during the march, making it all the more colorful and more interesting for spectators. 

This year, as last year, there was no march due to COVID restrictions, which is somewhat strange, as thousands of people surged to the Western Wall on Wednesday and Thursday of last week for the Blessing of the Priests, but that was not the only topsy-turvy decision taken by the government and its predecessor.

But even without the march and the other manifold activities that were part of the Feast of Tabernacles the ICEJ decided to go ahead and hold its 42nd annual Feast of Tabernacles online from Jerusalem, with eight days of broadcasts from around the Land of Israel to a global television and online audience of hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide. This year’s Feast was notable for the way in which senior Israeli officials in the Bennett-Lapid government reached out to Christian supporters worldwide with a message of appreciation for their unwavering solidarity with the Jewish state and its people.

Included among the Israeli dignitaries who joined the Feast of Tabernacles broadcasts were: President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai and Minister of Tourism Yoel Razvozov, as well as Yad Vashem’s new chairman Dani Dayan.

“Our Christian friends and supporters around the world so much wanted to come to Jerusalem this year to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with the Jewish people, but we hosted instead a rich and colorful array of daily broadcasts from Israel out to the Christian world,” said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler.

“We are especially excited about the new Israeli government’s outreach to the Christian world through our Feast,” said Bühler. “We have never had so many senior Israeli cabinet ministers address the Feast as was the case this year, and it shows the Bennett-Lapid government indeed understands and values the importance of Christian support for the Jewish state and people. We also are most grateful for the warm holiday greetings from President Herzog, who has proactively engaged with pro-Israel Christians throughout his public career.”

The ICEJ is considered the world’s largest pro-Israel Christian ministry, with branch offices in more than 90 nations and supporters drawn from over 170 nations worldwide.

A special feature of this year’s celebrations was the ICEJ’s collaboration with various artists from around the world to create a special adaption of “B’Tfilah Amen,” the Israeli song that competed in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995. The new clip, which premiered at the Feast of Tabernacles, included participants from Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey, Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, France, Germany, Ireland, Macedonia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States. The song was composed by Moshe Datz, with lyrics by Hamutal Ben Ze’ev. The ICEJ regards it as a song of prayer and blessing for the whole world.

■ BEGINNING ON October 4, Talbiyeh will have a multi-disciplined festival that includes art tours and workshops, a nature tour led by Israel Galon, performances, a circus, a second hand fair, an outdoor film screening and conversation with the director Yair Agmon, and much more. The festival continues to October 14. 

Details: [email protected] or the Ginot Ha’Ir Community Council website.

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