Traditionally, Jews immediately begin to build their sukkahs after breaking their fast, in preparation for the next holiday in the Jewish calendar which begins Sunday night.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The sounds of banging and clashing poles filled the air in certain neighborhoods in Israel on Wednesday night as Jews began building temporary huts in honor of the next holiday in the Jewish calendar – Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles – which begins Sunday evening.
Having atoned for their sins on Yom Kippur, Jews traditionally want to begin afresh by immediately fulfilling a commandment, so after breaking their fast, families began hauling out of storage all the parts that constitute their sukkahs, as the huts are called in Hebrew. The sides can be made of wooden boards, or metal poles attached to large, colorful cloths, with bamboo mats spread on top as a roof.
Electric screwdrivers, hammers, and even saws are used to put it all together, after which children (and adults) decorate the sukkahs with posters, paper chains, tinsel, and even tiny lights that remind many immigrants of a different holiday, celebrated in the winter-time by their Christian neighbors.
Building these sukkahs can be a lot of fun, but as usual when power tools and climbing are involved, there is an element of danger. Magen David Adom has put out a list of safety warnings on such matters as how to deal with electricity (in constructing the huts and installing lighting), ensuring the stability of the structures, and taking care while standing on ladders, which is necessary to connect the roofing.
The danger was brought home quickly this year, when Israeli media reported on Wednesday night of a 9-year-old boy from Elad who severed two fingers when trying to use a circular saw to help build his family’s sukkah. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors are trying to reattach them.
Sukkot, celebrated for a week, is one of the three pilgrimage festivals where Jews are enjoined in the Bible to come to Jerusalem. The holiday commemorates how God protected the Jewish people for 40 years after they left Egypt, as they lived in temporary shelters in the desert before entering the Land of Israel.
It is also the only holiday during which Gentiles were invited to celebrate with the Jews by coming to the Temple.
In a nod to this tradition, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem has brought thousands of Christians from around the world to Israel’s capital for the past 39 years for an annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration that includes a Jerusalem March to the Old City in support of Israel.