For more than 10 years, I have been fortunate to celebrate the holiday of Succot, where it was meant to be celebrated, in Israel.
There is a feeling of belonging, from the moment I leave the plane and step onto Israeli ground.
Succot Food Festival in Israel
It is a glorious time of year; warm and sunny. We can’t wait to build our succah and decorate it, especially with decorations made by our grandchildren in school and in gan (nursery school). The sidewalks in Jerusalem are lined with tables, people selling the “Arba Minim” (the four species, Lulav and Etrog), often into the wee hours of the night. Planning our trips and daily activities centered around the necessity of eating in the succah seems to be natural in Israel. Succot are built all over, in gardens, on sidewalks outside apartments, and even in public places, such as restaurants, the zoo, and most of the hotels and resorts.
This is not merely vacation time but family time, all over the country. There are multiple festivals, concerts, activities for children and families, and all serve to remind us of the importance of family in Israel.
In past years, we have taken the opportunity to spend a few days in a hotel or resort, from the north to the south all the way to Eilat, but this year we were content to celebrate with our children and grandchildren at home, in our succah and in their succah. We played sports in the parks, enjoyed the night circus in Modiin, joined in festivals and strolled through the streets of Jerusalem. We celebrated the birth of a great-nephew, davened in the many shuls near us, and simply cherished the privilege of sharing this holiday in our homeland, Medinat Yisrael.
The week ends on Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, the holiday when we complete the cycle of reading the entire Torah. It is customary to serve Stuffed Cabbage on this holiday, and my mother has been preparing this dish since I can remember, including today. In the States I am always overwhelmed at the special dancing and celebrations with the Torah both in the evening as well as in the morning—how much more so in Israel!
I close my eyes for a moment and reflect. It is 70 years after my parents have survived the destruction of European Jewry. Today, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are privileged to walk proudly in the Jewish homeland, Israel, a modern, technologically sophisticated country, with the most ancient history and beliefs.
I am grateful; I am blessed.