Jerusalem is now gearing up for that most joyful of holidays: Sukkot, also known in Hebrew as zman simchateinu, the season of our rejoicing. That gives you a hint of what the holiday atmosphere during this time is all about.
Sukkot is often described as the original Thanksgiving holiday. It commemorates the Divine Protection enjoyed by the Children of Israel during their wanderings through the desert after the exodus from Egypt.
Traditionally, Jews celebrate by building booths in which they eat and sleep for the duration of this week-long holiday. The booths are called sukkot (one sukkah, two sukkot).
In Israel, the entire country is on vacation and in Jerusalem, it feels like everyone takes to the outdoors to party, play and celebrate for a whole week long. In Biblical times, every citizen in the country came to Jerusalem for the Sukkot holiday. Sometimes, it still feels that way!
As a special holiday gift, you can still download our free Traveler’s Prayer, with English and Hebrew text.
To help you explore Jerusalem this Sukkos, our e-guidebook, Introduction to Jerusalem, is on sale this holiday only for $1.99. Can’t beat that, since it's normally $5.99, so grab your copy and let’s discover the Holy City together!
When you’re in Jerusalem for the “season of our rejoicing,” here’s a sample of what you can expect starting later this week:
The priestly blessing is said every day in Israel (except in the Galilee), but during the intermediate days of Sukkot and Passover, it has become a custom to have a mass priestly gathering bless the enormous crowds at Western Wall. This is a unique Jerusalem experience – don’t miss it!
This year, it takes place on Sunday, September 22, 2013. The Old City will be closed to traffic during Sukkot, so you’ll have to walk – along with what seems like half the country. Morning prayers are scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m. so expect the Priestly Blessing to take place around 9:00 am and again at about 10:00 a.m.
Hang around the large sukkah in the plaza after the service and you can meet Israel's two Chief Rabbis, who will be greeting the public there.
Visit the World’s Largest Sukkah
The sukkah at Safra Square is billed as the world’s biggest one. It is quite an impressive size. Starting at 17:00 each evening from September 19 to 24, 2013, it is open to the public for a wide range of free activities in and around it, including workshops where kids can make their own musical instruments, various performances, dances and arts and crafts opportunities. Over a 100,000 people stop by each year.
Israel ScaVentures’ Open Scavenger Hunts
Israel ScaVentures' Jerusalem Scavenger Hunts are one of our all-time favorite Jerusalem activities. Armed with a mission pack that includes clues, maps, questions and stories, you’ll you explore a neighborhood in depth, discovering its history and significance in an educational, fun way, with a little competition thrown in – if you want it.
Normally, you need to get a group together to organize one, but during Sukkot you can join "open scavenger hunts" happening around the city, whether there's just one or a whole slew of you!
Note that if there are five or more of you, you can also organize a hunt just for your group.
Dates of Open Hunts:
Sunday, September 22, 2013 at 11:00 – Old City
Sunday, September 22, 2013 at 10:00 – Gush Etzion
Monday, September 23, 2013 at 10:00 – Gush Etzion
These adventures are extremely popular so reservations are required!
Click here to learn more about these fun, exciting and educational adventures and to book. Please specify in the comments section which open hunt you are interested in.
Simchat Beit Hashoevah for Women
A simchat beit hashoevah is the ultimate Sukkot party – lots of music and hours upon hours of dancing. If you’ve never seen or danced in one, it’s a unique experience worth seeking out. Almost every synagogue in Jerusalem will be having one and many people hop from one event to the next. Since the events are gender-specific, typically, men dance and women gather to watch.
Thanks to Tof Miriam, a non-profit organization that supports Israeli women in the arts, women can also find simchat beit hashoevah events where they can dance freely as well These events have become a Sukkos tradition where mothers and daughters, groups of teenagers and grandmas of all political and religious stripes come together to dance and celebrate. Tof Miriam’s flagship band, Tofa’ah, an all-women rock/jazz group, will be performing live at two simchat beit hashoevah events in Jerusalem:
Sunday, September 22, at Bais Yakov Auditorium, Corner of Hapisgah and Tora Ve’avoda Streets in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood, 10:00 a.m. Note that this simchat beis hashoevah is in support of the Bayit Vegan Programs for Special Needs Children.
Tuesday, September 24, at the Romema Community Center, 5 Zichron Yakov Street, 7:30 pm, Free admission. Come early, because this always attracts thousands of women.
There’s nothing quite like these events anywhere else – many women report the Tofa’ah simchat beit hashoevah concerts to be one of their favorite memories of Jerusalem, so – if you’re female – don’t miss this opportunity.
Why do we highlight only the women’s events here? Because all gentlemen have to do to join a simchas beis hasho’evah is simply wander through the neighborhoods of Meah She’arim and Geula on the evenings of September 19, and September 21 through the 24th, and follow the music!
Special Events at the City of David
The City of David offers a variety of fun family experiences during this week. There are electric-bicycle tours, Segway rides and paintball fights for the adventurous, or take your budding archaeologists to participate in the Temple Mount Sifting Project, where you never know what you might discover. For a full listing, check out the City of David’s website.
Still wondering what Sukkos all about? To learn more about this joyful Jewish holiday, check out Chabad's Sukkos Site.
Remember that you can always send your prayers to the Western Wall through our site. (Your prayers are strictly confidential and are deleted from our system as soon as they are delivered to the Wall.)
This is a free service that we consider a privilege to provide. Jewish tradition, however, teaches that prayer and charity, together, have the power to change Divine decrees. So please consider super-charging your prayer with a donation to our charity fund for disabled children in Jerusalem. Your donation, however small, will help provide much needed services, therapy and medications for severely disabled children in Jerusalem, as well as food to help them enjoy the upcoming holiday.
Chag Same’ach – Happy Holiday!
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We hope to see you soon in our favorite city. May you have a wonderful holiday!
Blessings from Jerusalem,
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