The heart of the city in the heart of the holiest season of the year.
And it’s a balagan. Chaotic.
Tonight will be the first night of the week-long holiday of Sukkot and I find myself in the shuk — Machane Yehuda — the outdoor market. As always it’s colorful, smelly and loud. No matter how I brace myself I still feel trampled underfoot by “savta carts” (shopping baskets on wheels), skittering street cats, and distracted moms pushing strollers. Vendors are calling over loudspeakers: “Sale on grapes! Figs! Halva!”
I make my way through to the top of the street to a white circus tent where the lulav and etrog sales are taking place. The energy in the tent is bustling and hectic, but the pace is much slower, more introspective, more focused. Jews of every stripe, sect, gender, and age take their time and focus in inspecting their purchases for the holiday. Seeing secular, dati leumi (national religious), Hasidim and Yemenite men, side by side, focusing on the smallest spots and divots of their etrogim, bargaining with the teenage retailers, I suddenly remember what Sukkot is supposed to represent. All humanity, represented by the 4 Species, coming together.
All our differences — some of us more or less fragrant, beautiful, round, fragile, wise, tall, thin — all of us uniting with our differences to serve a common cause. And despite the external chaos a sudden warmth rises within me, a sense of community and family, that no matter how different our views, outfits and practices might be, we all have our own place within it.