KaparotIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Two public 'secular sukkahs' are operating in the streets of Ramat Aviv during the Sukkot holiday, as part of the struggle by some residents of Tel Aviv's posh northern neighborhood against the Chabad movement's religious activities there.

The sukkah is a temporary dwelling which a Biblical commandment enjoins Jews live in every year, during the Sukkot holiday.

The secular sukkahs feature activities such as singing in public – a favorite Israeli pastime – under the guidance of singer Revital Friedman; therapeutic workshops by Noya Tzuk, who practices Reiki and self-awareness techniques (participants are requested to bring their own towels); and a special workshop for Hoshana Raba, the seventh day of Sukkot, called “Sweet Skewers” – in which, a flyer promises, “we will learn to design a pretty and tasty skewer of sweets.”

No kaparot allowed

The secular activists recently put up a website in which they declared that “Ramat Aviv is a peaceful community that was established about 60 years ago and in which Israeli natives, immigrants and 'Sabras' [native-born Israelis] – including secular, traditional and religious Jews – live in peace and quiet.”

"The character of the neighborhood is clear and agreed upon by all of us – 'live and let live' – and none of the residents is trying to force his ways of life on his close neighbors or on the rest of the neighborhood's residents. But in the past few years, several religious and hareidi-religious organizations have been operating in the neighborhood with the purpose of changing Ramat Aviv's character and that of your lives,” the website explained.

Mayor Ron Chuldai recently bowed to secular pressure and banned a public display of kaparot -- a Yom Kippur atonement ritual using live chickens which are then donated to poor families for food -- in the neighborhood.

Before Rosh HaShana, an evening in honor of Chabad was held in northern Tel Aviv, with the participation of Prof. Yisrael Aumann, Hasidic-religious performer Avraham Fried, Moishy Holtzberg – the child survivor of the Mumbai massacre, Minister Yakov Ne'eman, television star Eli Yatzpan and secular residents of Ramat Aviv who support Chabad's activities there.