Sukkot in Israel is a time of joy, family and parties


As an Israeli, Sukkot was always a very special holiday for me. I remember walking around my city, Ashkelon, and seeing thousands of sukkot everywhere. It felt like all the cars had disappeared because all the parking lots were turned into spaces for sukkot! Every restaurant has a sukkah, every synagogue, and almost every house. Sukkot is considered a very happy holiday; the biblical verse “rejoice in your holiday” refers to Sukkot. 

Every Sukkot a lot of relatives come from all over and stay at our house the whole holiday. At every meal, about 30-40 people sit around the tables. 

Before I continue, let me tell you a little bit about my family. I was raised in a modern Orthodox family. I have four older siblings and seven nephews and nieces. My grandparents on both sides came from Yemen to Israel around 1950, and both of my parents were born in Israel. 

Every Sukkot at my house turned into a big celebration. Every free spot on the floor in the sukkah became a space for a mattress so all the kids could sleep together, sharing stories and funny jokes until the middle of the night.  

At our Yemenite synagogue, the bigger the etrog (citron), the better. When we arrived at services when we were kids, we looked at all the etrogim and were shocked by all the sizes. 

In my family, after Sukkot, we usually make jam and liquor from the etrogim, as well as eating the raw fruit, which is possible because a Yemenite etrog is sweeter and more flavorful than a typical etrog. 

In the days of Beit Hamikdash (the ancient Holy Temple), Jews used to sprinkle water on the altar during Sukkot as thanksgiving and a request for rain, in a ceremony that was accompanied by a great celebration known as Simchat Beit Hashoeva. And so, it is customary to hold evenings of singing and dancing on the nights of Sukkot, as a reminder of the joy of the original Beit Hashoeva. 

In addition,  we as a family every year do a hafla (a  “get-together” party) with karaoke and music, and all the neighbors and relatives come for the mitzvah vesamachta bechagecha, to be joyous on Sukkot. 

After the first day of Sukkot until the last day, we have the days of Chol HaMoed, during which there is no school in Israel. Because of that, a lot of families use the time to visit beautiful locations in Israel and have a barbecue. It’s a great opportunity for family time and to connect with your relatives from all over Israel. 

Here’s a couple of cool places in Israel that Israelis visit during this time. 

The first one is called Ein Amphi. It is a very cold spring in the Golan, and it can be very refreshing during the hot days of Chol HaMoed. The water is clear and it’s easy to get there, just a five-minute walk. Not a lot of Israelis know about Ein Amphi, and it’s completely free! 

The second place that we visit a lot is called the Ben Shemen forest. It is close to the city of Modi’in, and it’s huge. A lot of families come here to listen to music and cook out. The forest also has bicycle paths and hiking trails. There is even a park for blind people, which gives them an opportunity to walk on their own in the open landscape, even without prior familiarity with the place.

I hope you have a great holiday, chag Sukkot sameach! 

ELIHAY SKITAL is the Israeli shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.