Sukkot in Jerusalem 2020

Oh, Jerusalem of 2020.

It used to be that “20-20” was an expression for hindsight.

This year of 2020 has taken on a different context with the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus has changed the world and certainly life as we knew it in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, Israel, endured a holiday season so unlike recent years, the excited holiday crowds and tens of thousands of international visitors were missing from the Jerusalem streets.

The huge Birkat Kohanim at the Kotel, Western Wall, was extremely limited.

The Israeli Chief Rabbis, Mayor Moshe Lion, US Ambassador David Friedman attended, however, the main plaza was empty. People watched from home on a screen, on Facebook for a live stream of the service.

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On other days a lone Kohen could be found blessing the small prayer groups. Regulations for the holiday week this year limited outdoor groups to 20 people, and within one kilometer from home.

This was the year for the private home sukkah, tucked away in the garden,

or up on the roof,

in all shapes and styles.

Some sukkot blended into the architecture,

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while others were easier to see.

A wooden one on this small porch is an annual sight,

but there seemed to be many more new white walls in driveways this year,

as more people had to stay home and not travel near or far.

They were placed in parking spots next to apartment buildings.

On the last night of Sukkot, I took a walk around the neighborhood and found a friend eating dinner. This “communal” sukkah is shared by many people in the building, but this year families were eating at separate times and not sharing meals.

When I started going each year, President Shimon Peres was at Beit Hanasi, hosting the Israeli President’s sukkah which was open to the public.

But this year, President Rivlin missed out hosting the public, and the “open sukkah” was a two-hour program online, which included

the Israel Space Agency, a program involving young Israelis.

The little Professor G got my vote as the cutest presenter.

Photo credit: Aleksandr Tokar

Even the sukkah at the Kotel Plaza, though brightly lit, was much smaller this year and was used only by those who lived near by.

Instead of running around all night long in Jerusalem to attend classes, now one can sit anywhere in the world and zoom in and out to learn Torah.

This year went online for dozens of lectures for Hashana Raba.

And music – last year Akiva Tourgeman was singing at Beit Hanasi, this year he was on Israeli TV.

This year Tourgeman was on stage for Hashana Raba televised concert.

Yemima Mizrachi spoke and introduced Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and other performers on the outdoor stage for an online Hashana Raba event.

This was the year of the small sukkah and even smaller holiday businesses.

Hoshanot at the Kotel, were seen live on Facebook and now on YouTube.

The Jerusalem March with tens of thousands from around the world coming to show love for Jerusalem did not happen.

The Bible Marathon was run online, not over the Judean landscapes.

Tourism which had been in the millions of visitors, went down to zero.

Small business owners have really been suffering with forced closings.

This was a year to find simple pleasure in nature close to home.

Repurposed unused school lunch bags made into a sukkah decoration.

Of immediate family time together,

seeking quiet time and some sun up on the roof,

or on a rock in the park for solitude.

The Sukkot and Simhat Torah under corona limitations for many were at home, home alone without the usual dancing and large parties.

None of the crowds of past years.

Oh, Jerusalem of 2020!

The sun set on another holiday season so different than last year.

Sukkot 2020 one to remember or one to try and forget?

Next year in Jerusalem.

15 thoughts on “Sukkot in Jerusalem 2020

  • October 12, 2020 at 11:11 am

    Shana tova. Thank you for the “round up” of the chagei tishrei. In my view, not a year to forget. This has been, and still is, a year of connection to family and ה׳, a year of gratitude for the brachot of our health, for our good weather here for 23 days straight, with rain only starting late last night, and for the daily chasadim bestowed upon us. Of course, the virus has brought about much hardship and tragedy, so we must continue to be as careful as we can and continue to daven. With all that, we wish you and your family much bracha and simcha in the new year.

    • October 12, 2020 at 11:25 am

      Thank you for this comment, yes there was good and bad, hopefully, 5781 will turn out to be a very good year for all.

  • October 12, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    Beautiful pictures, which I always enjoy, so thanks! However, I don’t understand why there are sukkot which are under a roof/overhang/trees?! They’re not kosher…or am I missing something?

    • October 12, 2020 at 1:39 pm

      First I would like to thank you for the compliant, so glad you enjoy the photos. You are correct, the sukkah should not be under a tree or roof, honestly not sure why there seemed to be so many under awnings. Could be a small section which is “kosher” was enough for the family. Part of our sukkah is under a porch, so I usually put young children in those seats but was not the problem this year as we only used half the schach on top and left most open.

  • October 12, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    What a treat to see what went on in other neighborhoods and events! Thank you SO much for all of your wonderful photos and comments! We all just stayed “home alone” in Betel enjoying the perfect weather and listening to beautiful davening at the shul which is right next door!
    Appreciating the positives….

    • October 13, 2020 at 6:17 am

      Thanks for letting me know this was appreciated. Stay well.

    • October 13, 2020 at 6:18 am

      You’re welcome. Stay well.

  • October 12, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    What strange times we live in!

    Thank you for sharing the photos of Jerusalem. I would love to go there one day.

    • October 13, 2020 at 6:19 am

      Hope one day soon! Take care and stay well.

  • October 12, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you for this bittersweet post. May next Sukkot be the completely joyful holiday we are *all* used to (in every corner of the world) – or better yet, all of us Home together…forever!

    • October 13, 2020 at 6:20 am

      AMEN. Stay well and hope we are all out and about next year in Jerusalem.


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