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Palm fronds and paper chains

A temporary dwelling reenforced by that most permanent of building materials

We’re decorating our sukkah, the kids and I. We have these thin strips of paper in pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. We loop them into circles and attach them to the one looped before with a stapler to form a paper chain. This rainbow chain will loop around our makeshift hut, we’ll attach it to the vines and palm frond that form our ceiling with the stars…

This hut, temporary, built with the same blueprints our ancestors used and handed down from generation to generation, with a view straight into the face of eternity. These stars, wow, these stars, how bright they shine in the millions, through the palm fronds and paper chains.

“What if we write the names of the people who love us on the paper?” my son asks.

“Mama, Aba, Safta, Saba, Safta Ravta…Grampa Rick and Rebecca…” my daughter writes slowly, carefully, the pen leaking into the paper, the letters lopsided and listing, and chosen with perfect intention even if on paper the spelling is “wrong.”

Then came the uncles — One uncle alive and well and living on the other side of the world. The other uncle alive forever, but only in our hearts where we feel him every day. Then my aunts and uncles on both sides, and their Aba’s, too… and all the cousins… Then the names of the Grandparents who made it all happen… and the others who should be here, but aren’t. And finally, my mom’s name written in purple: Her favorite color.

Two chain links filled already.

Then came all the friends we have here, Aba’s friends, Mama’s friends…

Their teachers and the teachers aides, and the kids in school, and their parents, too; the guy at the dining hall who serves the schnitzel, the woman at the store who rings up our groceries, the girls at the kibbutz cafe that draw hearts on their hot chocolate foam. The friend who brought them each a shamrock pin.

The people online whom we’ve never met, but have still rallied behind us from all over the world.
Our landlord who brings us mangoes, our neighbors who share meals with us, the parents who sometimes drive us to school, the bus driver, too, and the man from Wadi Joz who fixed the fence where we propped our palm fronds.

We ran out of paper.

All these names, and more — surrounding our temporary hut, enveloping it in color and in the best intentions. All these wonderful people who are part of our lives who lift us, who sustain us who have helped bring us to this moment..

“Ufros Aleinu Sukkat Shalomecha — Spread over us a canopy of peace,” we sing as we finish hanging our paper chains.

The nights are cold, already, in the face of these stars — and how warm and safe it will feel to be here in this sukkah, enveloped by those who love us most.

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, Times of Israel's New Media editor, lives in Israel with her two kids in a village next to rolling fields. Sarah likes taking pictures, climbing roofs, and talking to strangers. She is the author of the book Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered. Sarah is a work in progress.