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Happy Sukkos from Jerusalem!
October 13, 2016
Jerusalem is now gearing up for the most joyful time of year in Israel: the holiday of Sukkot. Sukkot is also known in Hebrew as zman simchateinu, the season of our rejoicing. That's truly what this week is all about.
This year, Sukkot starts on Sunday, October 16, at sundown, and ends at sundown on October 24, in Israel. (Outside Israel, it lasts an extra day, until October 25.)
Sukkot 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, sukkah, when singular.
You'll see these booths all over town, on people's balconies, in public parks, at sidewalk cafes. The Jerusalem Municipality usually builds what may well be the largest sukkah in the world right in front of its building, at Kikar Safar.
At this time of year, the entire country is on vacation and in Jerusalem, it feels like a week-long outdoor party. 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. So grab your copy and let’s discover the Holy City together!
Sukkot Events in JerusalemHere's just a sampler of all the goings-on in Jerusalem during this coming week of Sukkos, the “season of our rejoicing.”
Priestly BlessingThe 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 Wednesday, October 19, 2016. 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 between 8:15 and 8:45 a.m. so expect the Priestly Blessing to take place around 9:00-9:30 am and again at about 10:00-10:30 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.
Israel ScaVentures’ Scavenger HuntsIf you are here as a family or small group, 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. Click here to find out more about this outstanding activity.
Simchat Beit HashoevahA 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.
Most of these events are gender-specific: typically, men dance and women gather to watch.
However, 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 thousands of women, 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 on Tuesday, October 18, at the Romema Community Center, 5 Zichron Yakov Street, 8:00 pm. 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.
Why do we highlight only the women’s events here? Because all gentlemen have to do to join a simchat beit hasho’evah is simply wander through the neighborhoods of Meah She’arim and Geula on the evenings of October 17-20, and October 22-23, and follow the music!
Visit the President of IsraelEvery Sukkot, Israeli citizens are invited to the President's sukkah. The visit includes activities for children, musical performances, exhibits of Israeli products and robotics.
Wednesday, October 19, 10:00 - 16:00. 3 Hanasi St. Visitors must bring Israeli ID card or passport. No large bags.
Visit the Jerusalem SukkahThe sukkah at Safra Square is billed as the world’s biggest one. It is quite an impressive size. Over a 100,000 people stop by each year.
The City is offering free tours of the historical municipal buildings in English and French. October 19, at 11:00. Meet at the concrete pillows outside Building #3. (If that sounds strange, you'll know which pillows when you see them and try to sit on them!)
Kite-Flying FestivalKite-making workshops, lots of kids' activities, music and kite-flying (weather permitting) at the Israel Museum. October 18, 10-19:00.
Ein Karem Arts and Crafts FairMusic, street performances, arts and crafts stalls of all kind take over some of the streets in the picturesque village of Ein Karem. October 19 (10:00-23:00), October 20 (18:00-23:00) and October 21 (9:00-14:00).
Fall Festival in Gazelle ValleyExhibits and workshops on traditional farming and olive oil techniques, musical performances and children's activities. October 18 to 20, 9:00 to 17:00.
ShopIsrael FairIf you want to get all your souvenirs in one place and support Israeli entrepreneurs while helping feed the needy — all at the same time — this is the place to shop. The one-day only fair will feature Israeli vendors of "Made in Israel" products, including clothing, games, jewelry, Judaica and accessories.
At Mamilla Mall, Friday, October 21, 10:00 - 15:00. A percentage of all sales will be donated to Pantry Packers. Shop and feel virtuous, too!
Special Events at the City of DavidThe 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.
Transportation in JerusalemAs you plan your outings, keep in mind the following: There will be no public transportation on the first and last days of the holiday and the intervening Sabbath: Sunday evening to Monday evening (Oct 16-17); Friday evening to Saturday evening (Oct 21-22); Sunday evening to Monday evening (Oct 23-24).
Also, on Thursday, October 20, the Jerusalem March will be taking over much of the city between 7:00 and around 7:00 pm, so public transportation may be disrupted.
More About SukkotStill wondering what Sukkos all about? To learn more about this joyful Jewish holiday, check out Chabad's Sukkos Site.
Remember that you can send us your prayers and we’ll place them in the Western Wall in Jerusalem for you. (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, would help provide much needed services, therapy and medications for severely disabled children in Jerusalem.
Chag Same’ach – Happy Holiday!
Blessings from Jerusalem,
P.S. This is the time for rejoicing! Why not treat yourself to something lasting and finally discover the joy of learning Hebrew?