Israeli President Reuven Rivlin opened his sukkah for the last time during his term this year as a virtual event due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and limits on public gatherings, according to a press release from his office on Tuesday.
Over 70,000 people took part in the event, titled “Science Games at the President’s Sukkah,” in an online broadcast on social media platforms. The opening of the president's sukkah at Beit HaNasi (the president's official residence) is a tradition of past presidents, where visitors would typically take part in the event in person for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This recent event will be the seventh and last time Rivlin will be hosting the event, and was held on Tuesday in cooperation with the Science and Technology Ministry.
In addition to the president, Dudu Erez and Shira Levi also co-hosted the event, which featured special guests from the world of science, space and technology, including Nobel Prize laureates, scientists and researchers, the members of the Israeli National Youth Robotics Team, members of the Horizon community, pupils from TELEM (students build satellites) and singer Agam Buhbut.
Participants and young viewers took part in cracking scientific codes, home experiments in science, space and technology and trivia quizzes throughout the event.
“I am so happy that you are my Ushpizim, guests in my Sukkah, despite the fact that you are visiting from afar, in line with the instructions,” said the president to the participants during the broadcast.
“We pray ‘and cover us with your sukkah of peace, over all Israel and Jerusalem.’ Indeed, at this time, a covering of peace is a particularly important blessing. Only when we are together, supporting each other, can we overcome challenges like the one the virus presents," the president said in relation to coronavirus.
"That is something we are learning as a people in these complex times. But our sukkah here at Beit HaNasi is not just a covering of peace, it is one of science," Rivlin said. "Those who visit our sukkah will enjoy particularly exciting activities and experiences! It is true that at Sukkot, and over the last few weeks in general, you haven’t been going to school. But it is always fun to learn new things, to expand your knowledge and perhaps even to give us interesting new ideas about how to build a sukkah or to celebrate this beautiful festival in a scientific and unique way."
Yizhar Shai, Minister of Science and Technology, also thanked the president for hosting the themed event, saying that “We are living through challenging times when we cannot perform the mitzvot of the festival by being hosted in friends’ and family’s sukkot. The virus may require us to socially distance, but the wonders of technology allow us to continue the tradition and come together for a shared celebration at the house of the people, Beit HaNasi.It is a great honor for the Science and Technology Ministry and for me to be the president’s guests – and we would be delighted if all Israel joins us on Tuesday for a celebration of scientific and technological inspiration." "It is only appropriate that when we are dealing with an invisible, cross-border threat, we make Israeli science and scientists who are at the forefront of fighting the virus, the focus of our festivities," he said.