This year, October is the Season of Our Rejoicing in Jerusalem, so get ready to rejoice! This month, we've got a preview of some of the exciting events planned for the holiday of Sukkot in Jerusalem and cool updates at our website.

The Jerusalem Insider’s Guide Newsletter: Contents for Issue #4

  • Happy New Year
  • Sukkot events in Jerusalem
  • What's New on the Jerusalem Insider's Guide website

Sukkot is the Season of Our Rejoicing

Happy New Year!

Jerusalem celebrated Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, eleven days ago, fasted through Yom Kippur yesterday, and is now gearing up for that most joyful of holidays: Sukkot – zman simchateinu – the season of our rejoicing.

Sukkot, often described as the original Thanksgiving holiday, 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). An assortment of other rituals and tradition embellish the holiday.

What is Sukkos really all about? To learn more about this happy holiday, check out this Sukkot Tutorial.

Sukkos in Jerusalem

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 week.

Come to Jerusalem for the season of our rejoicing and here’s a sample of what you can expect next week:

Priestly Blessing

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 the Western Wall. The thunderous power of this public blessing is simply awe-inspiring.

This year, it takes place at the Western Wall on Monday Oct. 5. 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.

The Jerusalem March

On Tuesday, Oct 5, Jerusalemites will take to the streets for the Jerusalem March – a parade down the center of town. There will be arts, crafts, live shows, performance artists and children’s activities at Sacher Park to kick off the march, which begins at 10:00 am and lasts until 3:00 pm.

If you were planning any other daytime activity on Tuesday – don’t go into town, because most major streets will be closed for the parade.

Visit the World’s Largest Sukkah

The sukkah at Safra Square is billed as the world’s biggest one. True or not, it is quite an impressive size, and there are lots of activities going on in and around it all week long, including workshops where kids can make their own musical instruments.

Simchat Beit Hashoevah for Women

A simchat beit hashoevah is the ultimate Sukkot party – lots of music and hours of dancing. Almost every synagogue in Jerusalem will be having one. 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, too. 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:

  • Tuesday, October 6, at the Israel Center
    22 Keren Hayesod St.
    8:00 p.m.
    10 shekel admission

  • Wednesday, October 7, at the Romema Community Center
    8:00 p.m.
    Free admission.

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.

(If you’re not female, simply wander through the neighborhoods of Meah She’arim and Geula in the evenings of Oct 4 – 8 and follow the music!)

For a complete listing of Jerusalem Sukkot events, check the October calendar at Fun in Jerusalem.

What’s New This Month at the Jerusalem Insider’s Guide website

  • A few Hebrew phrases under your belt can make your trip much more exciting. See our Useful Hebrew Phrases for the rudiments to help you converse with the natives. (If you want more than that and are serious about learning Hebrew, you’ll find these online classes in conversational Hebrew phenomenal – effective, convenient, and fun. You can also learn to read the Bible in its original language.)

  • The latest installment in our continuing series of articles on Jerusalem history is on the Arab-Israeli war and the partition of Palestine.

  • On a more whimsical note, our new section on Jerusalem song examines songs that have featured the Holy City. King David’s Psalms may have been the first to sing the praises of Jerusalem, but the tradition he began continues to this day.

  • We’ve also begun adding restaurant reviews to help you make an informed choice about where to dine.

  • For all those who write in with safety concerns, our new page, Travel to Israel - Is it Safe? should answer most of your questions.

    If it doesn’t, and you have more questions – feel free to ask us.

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