Elkan’s View from Netanya


As usual the Festival of Sukkot in Israel was delightful. The weather has been unseasonably warm, with short sleeves and shorts being perfectly acceptable in October, and the country full of Sukkot!

If you live in a house then you put your Sukkah in your garden; if you have a patio then you can put it on that, but living in a block of flats presents its own problems. One complex in Netanya puts up a very large communal Sukkah for its very large blocks, which is a major social success as families who hardly see each other during the year get together.

There are some blocks in Netanya that are designed for observant Jews; the balconies in such blocks are deliberately staggered so that each family’s Sukkah is directly open to the heavens!

In my block one of my neighbours builds his large family Sukkah in the car park. This has the effect of worsening our parking problems, but no one complains for one week.

The festival finishes with Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah jointly which is the only strong argument that I can see for two days Yom Tov since the two festivals sit uneasily side-by-side. My synagogue began its services at 7:30 AM and didn’t finish until 1 PM, longer than Rosh Hashanah. Everything of course is very lively and very loud, and degenerates from time to time into chaos although most members of the shul understand the significance of the “Rejoicing of the Law”as Routledge decorously describes it. I have to confess that I wandered into shul disgracefully late, was immediately called up, and was then offered and drank in quick succession three single malts – Aberlour, Ardbeg and Glenlivet if you must know. It is a classy establishment!

After the Haftarah the whole mood changes. Yizkor is observed followed by Tefillat Geshem, the prayer for rain which is of such central importance in this country. It forms a very quiet and dignified ending to a raucous morning.

And later this week the Yoreh, the early rains, as the second paragraph of the Shema describes them, will begin in earnest.