Israeli Leadership Show Festive Hospitality by Opening the Sukkah to Strangers

PM Netanyahu hosts lone soldiers in his sukkah. Photo courtesy of Koby Gideon (Israeli GPO)

Hospitality is one of the traditional themes of the Biblical Feast of Tabernacles—temporary dwellings known in Hebrew as a Sukkah or Sukkot in plural—and Israel’s highest-ranking leaders are practicing that virtue with complete strangers. This week during the festival, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted three “lone soldiers”, immigrants serving in the IDF whose families are not in Israel.

“I would like to take this opportunity to again wish a good year to all citizens of Israel and to the soldiers—men and women—who are serving and defending our state around the clock, not just on holidays,” said Netanyahu in a press release on the event. “A good year and a happy Sukkot to you.”

In addition to speaking with the soldiers, who came from Australia, Ukraine and Italy, Netanyahu also spoke with their parents via video phone to give them holiday greetings as well. Netanyahu heard the soldiers’ personal stories, their families and IDF service, while sharing about his own time in the military.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s office, meanwhile, has announced plans to open his sukkah to Israelis during the holiday, complete with a personal souvenir for guests.

In the press release announcing the Open Sukkah event, Rivlin was quoted as saying, “Come and visit the Sukkah of peace and togetherness, where everyone belongs and which belongs to everyone… The president’s Sukkah is the Sukkah of all Israelis. We welcome everyone and are looking forward to seeing you!”

Other activities announced for the event were an opportunity to sieve dirt and find archaeological remains from real archaeological sites in Jerusalem, learn about the history of wine production and a virtual reality film on holy sites in Jerusalem.

President Rivlin also had the opportunity to be a guest this week, visiting the sukkot of Israel’s Chief Rabbis. Rivlin was quoted in a separate press release on that visit as saying, “We are praying for a Sukkah of peace at the moment, and there is no prayer more relevant for the tribes of Israel…

“We all have to live together. That is our destiny and our desire. But building a Sukkah of peace requires us to understand that we are all connected to each other.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, October 16, 2019)


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