Israel's History in Pictures: Sukkot, Early 1900's

Bukharian Jews kept up their traditions as they began to arrive in the Holy Land.

Contact Editor
Lenny Ben David,

Bukharian Sukkah ca. 1900
Bukharian Sukkah ca. 1900
L. of C.

As soon as the Yom Kippur fast day is over many Jews start preparations for the Sukkot (Tabernacles) holiday.  It usually involves building a sukkah, a temporary structure -- sometimes just a hut -- with a thatched roof, in which Jews eat and often sleep during the seven day holiday.

On the main page and to the right here is a Bukharian family in their sukkah (circa 1900). Note the man on the right holding the citron and palm branch.
(Library of Congress collection) 

Ashkenazi family (circa 1900) in the sukkah
beneath the chandelier and picures

The photographers of the American Colony Photographic Department took photos of sukkot structures over a 40 year period, preserving pictures of Bukharan, Yemenite and Ashkenazi sukkot.

Several photographs include the Jewish celebrants holding four species of plants traditionally held during prayers on the Sukkot holiday --  a citron fruit and willow, myrtle and palm branches.

Even though the sukka is a temporary structure, some families moved their furniture and finery into the sukka, as is evident in some of the pictures.

Bukharian Jews were part of an ancient community from what is today the Central Asian country Uzbekistan. They started moving to the Holy Land in the mid-1800s.

A more elaborate sukkah in the Goldsmidt house (1934)
in Jerusalem.  Note the tapestry on the walls
with Arabic script

The Bassam family sukka in Rehavia, Jerusalem
neighborhood (1939)


Exterior of the Goldsmidt sukkah in Jerusalem (1934)


A Sephardi Jew named Avram relaxing in
his Sukkah with a friend (1939)

The picture of an elaborate dinner was taken in a very large Jerusalem sukka belonging to the Goldsmidt family. Tapestries and fabrics hang on the wall of the sukka.  Close examination shows that the fabric contains Arabic words, even some hung upside down.  Several experts were asked this week to comment on the Arabic.  One senior Israeli Arab affairs correspondent wrote, "It is apparently some quotes that I can read but do not amount to anything coherent, written in Kufi style of Arabic... [I] would not be surprised if these are Kuranic verses."

Presumably the Goldsmidts and their guests didn't know about the Arabic phrases either.

A reader helped identify the Goldsmidts' building.   "The Goldsmidts were friends of ours who lived on Ben-Maimon Street [in Jerusalem]. They had a restaurant [and that explains the diners in the sukka].  Our wedding reception was there.  There's a plaque on 54 King George Street that says "Goldsmidt Building."
We invite readers to unravel the mystery of the tapestries, translate the phrases,  and provide a contemporary picture of the Goldsmidts' building.