Jewish prayer in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
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The holiday of Sukkot came “late” this year, bringing with it unusual winds, rain and lightning.

By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler, United With Israel

Jews began celebrating the holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) on Sunday evening. The festival lasts for seven days in Israel and eight days in the Diaspora.

Although on the Jewish calendar Sukkot always begins on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei, this year Sukkot arrived “late” on the Gregorian calendar, starting on the evening of October 13, closer than usual to Israel’s rainy season.

On Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon, rains, thunder, lightning and extreme winds fell upon the Holy Land.

Bolts of lightning electrified the skies over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

(Photo: Joshua Wander)

The unusual weather also damaged and in some cases destroyed the temporary outdoor booths (sukkahs) erected to dwell in during the holiday.

However, the Sukkot celebrations continued, even as the rains and winds ran their course.

For the past 14 years, the Rosenfield family of Bet Shemesh, a city in central Israel, hosted hundreds of people in their impressively large sukkah on the second night of the holiday.

Dancing in the Rosenfield sukkah (credit: Lilach Rosenfield)

“We were setting up for the Simchat Beit HaShoeva celebration when we heard the rain falling,” said Halana Rosenfield. “We had faith that we would be able to continue the celebration and kept on preparing for the expected crowd.”

Despite the weather, hundreds of men, women and children, including the city’s mayor, joined the festivities along with many community rabbis.

“As the rains continued intermittently and the winds increased, we sang and danced even louder and with more spirit,” Daniel Rosenfield proudly said. “Towards the end of the party, a tapestry of the Holy Temple started flying wildly due to the strong winds. We sang louder and even more joyously, sending prayers to the heavens to speedily rebuild Jerusalem and its Holy Temple.”

The weather is expected to remain wet but warm throughout the holiday. Thunderstorms continued throughout Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Due to the rains, hiking trails throughout the country have been closed for fear of flooding.

The Nature and National Parks Authority reported the closure of Nachal Darga and Nachal Og Wadi Og, popular hiking trails that run from Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives to the Dead Sea.

Traditionally, hundreds of thousands of Israelis visit Israel’s magnificent parks and hiking trails during the course of the Sukkot holiday.