The unique holiday of Sukkot is upon us, and we couldn't be more thrilled. Let's take a quick review of what makes the Israeli celebrations of this holiday so special.
A Very Israeli Sukkot
The holiday of Sukkot (affectionately known as the “hut holiday”) isn’t only celebrated in Israel, it’s celebrated by Jews all over the world. In Williamsburg Brooklyn, you can see wooden huts covered in green foliage topping the balconies of many Hasidic Jews’ apartment homes similar to the sukkah-topped balconies of Mea Shearim, Jerusalem. In Venice, Italy you’ll find boat-sukkahs docked along the canals, in many smaller Jewish communities around the world, you can even find a sukkah-on-a-bike, proudly touted by Habad Jews all over the world. And of course, there is the beloved pop-up sukkah, perfect for young couples, bachelors, and lazy builders and a staple of devout Israeli soldiers out in the field for Sukkot. But if there are so many ways to celebrate all over the world, what’s so special about celebrating Sukkot in Israel? We’ll tell you.
It’s a Mitzvah (Jewish Commandment)!
Sukkot is one of the Jewish holidays where it’s commanded in the Torah (bible) to go up to Jerusalem. It’s one of the three pilgrimages in the Jewish calendar year, which include Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot. Hundreds of thousands of Jews have journeyed to Jerusalem from all over Israel for thousands of years on these holidays, and just by being in Israel on Sukkot, you’re one of them!
Everyone’s on Vacation!
(Almost) the whole country is on vacation during Sukkot in Israel, and the country is alive with families and friends spending time outside together and the atmosphere is infectious. If you’re visiting loved ones as part of your vacation, Sukkot is the perfect time to enjoy each other’s free time.
Similar to touring the Old Cities of Jerusalem or Safed on Hannukah to see all the hanukiyot on the windowsills, Sukkot in Israel is a time where you’ll have a chance to see EVERY kind of sukkah you can imagine, just by walking through the streets of the country. In Israel, there are so many Jews looking for places to put their sukkah that architects have spent years developing ways to plan apartment buildings with the most open balconies possible, to allow more Israelis to keep this special holiday!
One of the largest annual gatherings of Jews in Jerusalem on Sukkot is the annual Priestly Blessing that takes place at the Western Wall. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience worth tripping over stroller wheels, people, and the slippery Jerusalem stones in the overcrowded plaza. Twice a year, once on Sukkot and once on Passover, tens of thousands of people gather to receive the priestly blessing of peace from hundreds of Jews who can trace their lineage to the priests of the Jewish Temple, which stood thousands of years ago just a few hundred meters from where you’re standing. It’s an amazing experience that happens only in Israel.
Visit the President!
It’s not every day that you’re invited to the President’s home in Jerusalem. Every year, the Israeli President opens his sukkah to visitors from all over Israel on one day of Sukkot, where citizens celebrate the holiday by celebrating something unique about Israel. In 2017, President Rivlin celebrated Israel’s diversity on the 70th year of this sweet tradition, with art exhibitions and musical displays from worldwide Jewish communities. If you’re in Israel for Sukkot, see what’s in store for this year!