The decorating of one’s sukkah is, for most people, a pleasurable experience that allows one to relive memories of holidays past. The children make decorations in school, and as they grow up, their collections of finger-painted drawings, popsicle-stick images of sukkahs, construction-paper chains, and glittery styrofoam pomegranates are stored carefully away and taken out each year to be hung from sukkah walls and ceilings. Guests bring water-resistant posters and festive shiny hanging-decor, and these, too, come out of storage each year and remind one of family and friends. I imagine that Christians feel about decorating their Christmas trees the way Jews feel about decorating their Sukkahs.
In Israel, the comparison goes a step further. At the numerous stores and stands that pop up on street corners, with sukkah decorations for sale, what we in America know as “Christmas tree lights” are sold here as “Sukkah lights.” American immigrants like to smirk at the irony, but the fact that native Israelis often do not understand the humor, because to them they are just sukkah lights, is yet another marvelous example of what it means for people who practice Judaism to have a home of our own.
Sukkah lights in action, photo courtesy of Lizrael:
Yael sums up the holiday of Sukkot: The why’s, the what’s, and the how’s. An exerpt:
Beyond being fed incredible quantities of incredible food among a really incredibly nice family, Succot is a pretty major holiday for Jews. Succot means booths or huts. In Israel, outside of Tel Aviv, nearly every family has their own Succah (hut) and it is really a very cool thing to see. Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t working because I was again trying to take pictures at night, when the succot are at their prime –lit from within and incredibly festive. Last night, staying in the midst of a religious moshav, we were asking ourselves do people really sleep in their Succah as in days gone by …the answer to that came quite quickly as we peered out the window and down into the garden of the neighboring house. The neighbor’s family succah was just below the window and we could easily make out the prone figure of the man of the house slumbering away within it. So yes, some people do indeed sleep in theirs. While not everyone does so, just about everyone eats in theirs –a huge and festive evening meal filled with family and friends.
Raanana Ramblings describes her local supermarket on the day before Sukkot:
Speaking of the supermarket…it was packed beyond belief [on Thursday]. There wasn’t a single cart to be had. I waited by the cart return, and soon saw an employee wheeling 2 of them my way. Problem: there were 3 of us eagerly waiting, and I hoped no violence would ensue. “I was here first!” I was ready to yell. Of course, there’s no emergency-room ending to this little story. I took one, another woman took one, and the third woman took a call on her cell phone. Sorry if you were expecting more.
Inside, the place was wall to wall people. I got almost everything but couldn’t bear to wait in line at the poultry counter, not with 20 people ahead of me. Went back tonight when it was empty and the butchers were saying that they’d never seen the store so crowded, not even before Rosh Hashana. “People are hungrier on Succot,” they joked. “They’re still refilling themselves after the fast.”
While I was waiting for my chicken to be packed up, a middle-aged man was trying to place his order. His wife had given him a list of what to buy- but it was almost 10:00 at night and everything on his list was sold out. Like most men (yeah, I’m sexist), he wasn’t able to improvise. Called his wife and asked her what to do. Apparently her instructions were beyond his ken because the next thing I knew he was handing the cellphone to the butcher so Wifey could speak to the man directly! As my grandmother used to say, “Did you ever?”
The clueless husband caught my eye and smiled. I smiled back, adding “Only in Israel!” He agreed wholeheartedly.
Filed under: Business, General, Holidays, Immigrant Moments
John Leonard is opening a contest!
I am half-officially announcing a photo submission thing-a-ma-jig called Show Me Your Sukkah. Right now, we’re in the middle of the holiday of Sukkot here in Israel. If you have or if you see a cool sukkah, take a picture of it and share it with the lovely readers here at Shalom Israel! You’ll be glad you did. I took some pics when I was out and about today. I’ll post them are I am re-connected to the internets at home.
And, in the same post, he writes of an anticipated bureacracy-related (and bitter?) blog post:
So at some point on erev Shabbat, our modem died. Bezek promises a replacement tomorrow morning at 8:30 (we have to go and pick it up). However, like all things Israeli, I am sure that there will be a blogable story out of this before it’s over. I am writing this on motze Shabbat from a cafe on Azza Street in Jerusalem.
This reminds me of a customer-service-in-Israel story I’ve neglected to blog about (until now). A few weeks ago, my modem died, just like John’s. I called Bezeq, and their very nice tech-support guy walked me through all sorts of steps, but nothing helped. Finally he admitted defeat and said that he’s putting into the computer that I’m entitled to a new modem, and I should go pick it up at a Bezeq store.
Now, I have to tell you, I hate the Bezeq store. Shortly after I made aliyah three years ago, Bezeq called me and offered a free telephone with built-in caller ID box, if I order a certain service. The service and its price sounded good, and I really wanted a caller-ID box, so I agreed. A week later, I went to the Bezeq store to pick up my new phone, and was told “we don’t have anymore.” I said “but I ordered one. How can you not have any left?” They said “that special offer ended 2 days ago. Why didn’t you come before?” To which I could only say “your salesperson didn’t mention that I had less than a week to pick up my phone. Don’t you think people have better things to do than rush over to Bezeq?” In the end, I did not get my phone. I was new in the country, spoke much less Hebrew than I do now, and was completely overwhelmed. This was sort of the last straw in a bad bureacratic week. On the way home, I cried from frustration.
So, dreading another visit, I asked the modem-non-fixing guy if I could have my new modem simply mailed to me; after all, it was their faulty modem that had broken before its time. He said it could be mailed, but only for a fee. I don’t remember what the fee was, but I remember thinking that, though it was not as much as the cost of a new modem, it was more than I was willing to spend rather than just go to the store and wait on line for a little while. So I said I’ll go to the store.
The very next day I went. I should add that it was extremely hot outside and I walked partway in the sweltering sun and was feeling pretty miserable when I walked in. But I put on a happy face, approached someone who looked like he was in charge, and said “Hello. My modem broke. Your tech support people said that they had put me down in the system for a new one. I’ve come to pick it up.” The guy said “Where is your old modem?” My heart sank. “I didn’t bring it,” I said. “Why would I bring in a broken modem that you are replacing anyway? I wasn’t told to bring it.” The guy said “We don’t give people two modems. If you bring in the old one, then I’ll help you.”
I could feel the tears coming back, but this time I argued, in Hebrew. Perhaps I still have something to learn about dealing with this sort of situation — perhaps I would have been better served with sweet talk and batting my eyelashes or something — but the upshot is that I walked out without my new modem.
As soon as I got home, I called Bezeq and asked for a manager (another sign that I’d evolved somewhat in 3 years). I told him what had happened. He said “of course you had to bring in the old one. The tech support guy was supposed to tell you that.” I said “Well, he didn’t, and I’m mad as hell, especially since this is the second time this has happened.” The manager responded that he’d find the tape of my conversation with tech support, and see whether I’d been told that I have to bring in the old modem.
Thirty minutes later, my phone rang. It was the manager. “You are correct,” he said. “Our staff person did not give you full instructions. Will you be home for the next three hours? If so we will hand-deliver a new modem to your home and install it for you.”
And they did.
Looks like Bezeq has evolved a little, too.
but pretty nonetheless.
Since decorations have not being renewed since us kids grew up a long time ago – every year the Sukkah in our family is decorated in exactly the same way. This year, having a member of the family that is a bit funny in the head with too much Chinese influence, the Sukkah has been added some important Chinese decorations to form Israel’s first Chinese oriented Sukkah.
More photos of his Chinese-Hebrew sukkah interior are here.