Sukkot in Jerusalem, Holy Temple Style

The Sukkot holiday used to mean not only moving into temporary quarters, but housing those quarters themselves in temporary quarters - Jerusalem. Some families aim to renew that custom this year.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 12:53 PM

Five families have already signed up to join the initiative, and plan to build their sukkot - holiday huts - on a hillside overlooking the Temple Mount. Jerusalem archaeologist Tzachi Zweig says that this is how it used to be done:

"We know that there is a Biblical commandment to visit Jerusalem on the three Festivals, but on the Sukkot holiday, it is more than just a visit. Shavuot (Pentecost) is only one day, and the commandment on Passover is also only for one day - but the commandment on Sukkot is to 'rejoice before G-d for seven days'. We are commanded on Sukkot to live in temporary huts, or booths, and it's clear that with the masses of people who came, not all of their hundreds of thousands of booths could fit inside the city. Many huts were built outside the city, overlooking the Holy Temple, and there are many sources indicating this... It's logical that Mt. Scopus and the Mt. of Olives would be chosen for this purpose."

The site chosen for the renewal of this practice is the Emek Tzurim National Park, on the slopes of Mt. Scopus, beneath Yeshivat Beit Orot and Hebrew University. "This is the location where we have been running an ongoing archaeological analysis of dirt and rubble from the Temple Mount," Zweig said. Volunteers have been sifting through truckloads of dirt carted away from the Mount after the Islamic Waqf perpetrated an illegal construction project there.

"We already have running water and security there," Zweig said, "and even electricity if necessary, so it will be relatively easy to build even several dozen sukkot there. Some people said that it's too hard for them to come, or the wife is pregnant, or whatever - but I reminded them that in the times of the Temple, there were no such excuses; everyone came. We want to accustom people to the traditional - and future - way of keeping the holiday."

The National Parks Authority has given its OK, and the plans include a daily visit to the Temple Mount itself. But one problem has not yet been overcome: an abrupt nixing of the plan by Jerusalem police. But Zweig is not deterred: "If we have to, we'll go to the Supreme Court. If the National Parks Authority has agreed, and if we are fewer than 50 people - which, I fear, we could very well be - then what right do the police have to stop us? I've been here at night before... At worst, we won't sleep at the site, but no matter what, we'll be there for the holiday."