As soon as Yom Kippur’s palpable sound of silence comes to an end, there is the unmistakable clank of sukkah building and the flurry of activity that traditionally accompanies Sukkot.
By the next morning, sukkahs have sprung up all over town, including on apartment balconies specially designed to fulfill the halachic requirement of seeing the stars, rather than the upstairs neighbour’s balcony, above the sukkah.
Overnight, Israeli consumers move on from honey and bikes to sukkah accessories.Large DIY chains and special companies sell complete sukkah kits, both traditional wooden and modern tubular high-tech varieties.
The special Sukkot souk has just opened in the center of town. Here you can buy every possible item connected to the festival: lulavim, etrogim and all manner of decorative items including tinsel – yes, I did say tinsel. Incongrous as it sounds, tinsel is a popular sukkah decoration here.
Raanana municipality prunes the city’s palm trees in order to provide us with the long leaves – “schuch” – for the succah. These can be collected as required free of charge and transported home.
Every city has a communal sukkah that is open to all. This one near my home appeared overnight and reflects the multi-lingual nature of Raanana.
There are sukkahs in kosher and non-kosher restaurants and in religious and secular homes, making it a truly inclusive festival. The sultry summer season usually comes to an end this time of year, giving us the perfect weather for sukkah dwelling. The first rain often falls during Sukkot but, to date, it has never led to any of our meals in the sukkah being a total washout, as was regularly the case in London.
The only minor downside to my favorite festival is that I’ve had to return for the umpteenth time to the supermarket to search, not entirely successfully, for fresh produce.Not surprisingly, with truncated working weeks and excessive demand, there is a shortage of various foods at the moment.
Still, I have managed to find peppers and cabbages, which are traditionally served stuffed with meat, rice and other vegetables during Sukkot. One reason for this tradition, I’m told, is that it’s meant to symbolize the idea of hospitality: we should literally “stuff” guests into the sukkah. If anyone has any other explanation, I’d be glad to hear it.