The Best Things to Do in Jerusalem in October
Jerusalem events are plentiful and multifaceted in the month of
This year, we'll start it off with Yom Kippur, the most serious of Jewish holidays, followed immediately by the joyous excitement of the Sukkot holiday, before we get ready to settle down for the winter while taking advantage of the remaining balmy days and nights.
Sukkoth – the Feast of Tabernacles: The first and last days of this eight-day holiday are official Israeli holidays.
The intervening days are known as chol hamo’ed, and this is when the whole country seems to be out and about on vacation. True, things can get a bit crowded at this time, but there is a joyful holiday excitement in the air that you’ll experience at no other time.
Many Jerusalem events at this time feature music, but there are also as many activities peculiar to this holiday to enjoy!
During Sukkot, you'll see booths pop up all over town, some of them in the unlikeliest places. Restaurants and cafes will have them, too. Even the Municipality.
During Sukkos, Israel ScaVentures -- our top-rated group activity in Jerusalem - runs "open" hunts so individuals as well as groups can enjoy this exciting, educational trip through history.
There is no minimum group requirement on these dates. Space is limited, however, and open hunts fill up fast, so advance booking is required.
For more details and to pre-register online, click here.
The world’s largest sukkah – or so it bills itself – can be found at Safra Square, the Jerusalem City Hall plaza. It is the site of many Jerusalem events and activities during chol hamoed, most of which are open to the public.
The sukkah is 30 meters long, 16 meters wide and 6 meters high (480 sq meters) and is lit by 144,000 tiny bulbs powered by about 4 kilometers electric wiring.
Even if you attend no events in the sukkah itself, it’s always fun to have a photo of “the world’s largest” to show the folks back home.
In many neighborhoods, streets or sidewalks will be blocked off a few days before the holiday to host the "Sukkos shuk." This is an open air market for holiday supplies: the four species needed during the holiday, building materials for the sukkah booths and decorations.
It's fun to walk through these markets to soak up the excitement and flavor of the upcoming week.
The Western Wall is the place to be if you really want to feel part of the Jewish people - tens of thousands of them congregate here for the daily prayers and the Chief Rabbis of Israel hold receptions in the sukkas set up here for that purpose. Anyone can come.
The highlight, however, is the Priestly Blessing - Birkat Kohanim. It has become a tradition that people flock here to be present when the Kohanim, the priests, bless the people during chol hamo'ed.
As long as you don't mind massive crowds, this is definitely an experience worth having.
One of the most traditional and fun features of Sukkot is the simchat beit hasho’evah. In the days of the Temple, this special water-drawing ceremony was accompanied by music and dancing and represented the pinnacle of joy.
Lacking a Temple and the ability to perform the water-drawing ceremony, traditional Jews the world over nevertheless gather to dance to live music every evening of chol hamo’ed. If you wander through the religious neighborhoods of Meah Shearim and Geula, you are likely to hear music floating through the air.
Peek into any synagogue and you’ll see hundreds of men gathered to dance in celebration of the holiday. In the large yeshivas, numbers reach into the thousands.
Some of these are sponsored by the city, others are arranged by synagogues or neighborhoods, but almost all are free. Feel free to join in - you'll have a cultural experience unlike any other.
Note that in religious neighborhoods, men and women dance separately (and often it's only the men who dance). Modest dress is required.
There are also some women-only simchat beit hashoevah
events, the largest and most famous of which is the free one sponsored by Tofaah, a women’s only Jewish band. The event draws thousands of
women from around the country each year. (We've written about this unique Jerusalem band before here.)
Always scheduled during chol hamo’ed Sukkoth, the March is a Jerusalem event that attracts thousands of Christian pilgrims. It's a festive parade that winds through town, to the delight of onlookers and participants.
Large companies such as El Al and Bezeq field their marching bands, while Christian pilgrims who come for the Feast of Tabernacles also participate, as do performers from the far corners of the earth.
To watch the parade, simply stand on the sidewalk somewhere along the parade route (King George, Agnon, King David streets). There’s a VIP stand near the Jerusalem YMCA on King David Street, if you want to position yourself to catch sight of any celebrities.
There are also performers and kids' activities at Sacher Park.
Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement.
On this serious, yet joyful day, the city of Jerusalem
shuts down completely. There are no cars, no open businesses, no public transportation. A strange stillness descends upon us and last for the 24 hours of this yearly fast day, during
which Jews neither eat nor drink, focusing instead all their energies on prayer.
Services at the Western Wall begin at sundown, continue all of the following day and are open to all.
When: from sundown on Friday, October 3, to sundown on Saturday, October 4, 2014