Is­rael FES­TI­VAL MUST-SEE: SUKKOT

Asian Geographic - - West Asia -

Sukkot is a week-long Jewish fes­ti­val that fol­lows Yom Kip­pur. The first and last days are Sha­bat-like hol­i­days, and so most busi­nesses close, but lots of ac­tiv­i­ties are or­gan­ised across Is­rael, mak­ing it a fes­tive time to visit. The in­ter­me­di­ate days are called Chol Hamoed, when cer­tain work is per­mit­ted. Sukkot marks the end of the har­vest pe­riod, but it also holds reli­gious sig­nif­i­cance in com­mem­o­rat­ing the in­de­pen­dence of the Jewish peo­ple.

Through­out the week, all meals are eaten in a sukkah, a struc­ture that is built from plant ma­te­ri­als and wood out­side; many peo­ple sleep in them, too. The sukkah is in­tended to re­mind Jewish peo­ple of the kind of frag­ile dwellings that the Is­raelites lived in when their an­ces­tors lived in the desert af­ter the Ex­o­dus from slav­ery in Egypt.

Build­ing one dur­ing Sukkot is a mitz­vah – a reli­gious obli­ga­tion. To­day, many peo­ple dec­o­rate them by hang­ing pa­per chains, fruits, veg­eta­bles, cards and pic­tures from the rudi­men­tary rafters. It is also a cus­tom to in­vite guests to the sukkah.

Na­tional parks, mu­se­ums and other her­itage sites are very busy dur­ing Sukkot. Most mu­se­ums host spe­cial events for the hol­i­days. Dur­ing the in­ter­me­di­ate days of Sukkot, there are per­for­mances of mu­sic and dancing.

The sev­enth day of Sukkot in­volves a syn­a­gogue ser­vice in which wor­ship­pers pray – ac­cord­ing to the Tal­mu­dic tra­di­tion – by pre­sent­ing the four species: et­rog (the fruit of a cit­ron tree), lulav (a frond from a date palm tree), hadass (branches from the myr­tle tree) and ar­avah (branches from the wil­low tree).

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