October 4, 2006

Sukkot is in the Air

Chag Sameach to everyone. It is now just two days after Yom Kippur and I can already hear the hammering of poles, a rhythmic clanging, and the thrashing of palm fronds as they are cut down for schach. In fact, the majestic palms that line the thoroughfares here are shorn each October for schach, their fronds left in piles for the taking.

Here in Israel the sukkahs are not made of wooden boards. They have metal poles as a base with white curtains hung on them. Very regal, the white curtains gently billow and buffet in the warm breeze.

As soon as Yom Kippur is over, a huge Sukkah Fair is set up in Yad Levanim, the main square here in Raanana. Music blares while booths sprout up selling lulavim, etrogim, and decorations for the sukkah. Etrog sales people are eager to point out their perfect new crop. Yeshiva boys are out working the crowd, selling etrogim and lulavim for company ‘aleph’ and then getting a ‘cut’ for bringing in a customer.

And if you want a lulav demonstration, you can get one right away. Shopping for a brand new sukkah? Enter the sukkah stall and sit down to talk about dimensions, windows, pattern and color. And if you want, you can have installation included in the price. Tents are filled with flashing lights, pulsating lights, stringing lights. Ceilings are hung with paper pineapples, shiny apples, glass pomegranates. Kids run under foot, pointing at their favorite decorations then darting out with to play hide and seek behind a sukkah.

The greeting is now Chag Sameach and there is actually a team of people who work for the irya (the city) who make sure we know this. As I was returning from a bike ride yesterday, I was stuck on an island in the middle of a busy intersection waiting for the light to turn green. Suddenly a man appeared holding a new sign in his hand and a screwdriver. With a swirl of the tool, he quickly replaced the Shana Tova sign with a Chag Sameach sign, then went on to the next intersection – all this for the benefit of people waiting to turn left – and a lone biker or two!

We had the gardener come by to trim our trees in preparation for our sukkah. He brought his team of Thai workers donning large straw hats. Working with long shears, they pruned away the banana leaves and palm fronds. Seeing them work, if I closed by eyes, I could almost imagine I was back in Thailand passing by emerald rice paddies, where straw hats bobbed across green furrows, and boys rode atop water buffalo (but that is another chapter in another era!).

Our children are excitedly making sukkah decorations at school and I am about to pull out the Sukkah box from our meeklat (bomb shelter, which, Thank G-d, is again being used for storage). I wonder if our flashing lights still work…if not, I’ll be heading off to Ahuza because, just like that street sign, the Rosh Hashana merchandise has been ever so swiftly turned over to accommodate Sukkot. And so must I.

Chag Sameach!

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