Jews from Arabic-speaking countries have a unique way of celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
While Jews around the world are all preparing to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, the harvest festival, each unique community infuses the holiday with its own distinct traditions.
Jewish communities from Arabic speaking countries have special Sukkot customs that differ from Ashkenazi Jewish communities whose roots are in Eastern Europe.
The Syrian Jewish community decorates the Sukkah, which is a temporary hut, with the seven different species of the Land of Israel, which are barley, wheat, pomegranates, dates, figs, olives and grapes. In addition to fruit, biscochos (pastries baked in the form of a circle or a Star of David) are hung up in the sukkah. During the holiday, Syrian worshipers stay awake all night, studying Deuteronomy, Psalms and the Zohar.
There is also a special aliyah (calling up) of children to read from the Torah, after which Syrian Jews throw almonds for them to eat. Syrian Jews also use the traditional etrog fruit, or citron, to make special jams after the conclusion of Sukkot.
The Moroccan Jewish community decorates their sukkot with ornate Middle Eastern rugs and special Elijah’s chairs. Moroccan children receive special candies during the holiday. The lulav, or palm frond, is decorated with silk ribbons and bells. After the holiday, it is sometimes placed in a flowerpot to promote good health. Some leave it on top of the Ark (the cabinet that houses the Torah scrolls in a synagogue) until Passover.
Sephardic Jewish communities usually serve a rich display of delicious foods. Their Sukkot feast includes chicken kebabs, lamb kebabs, pargiyot (chicken breasts), steaks, Moroccan fish, rice, homemade pita bread, carrot salad with schoog (a spicy sauce of red hot chilly peppers), Israeli salad, potato salad, spicy pepper salad, spicy tomato salad, tabbouleh, hummus, matboucha (a spicy tomato sauce), eggplant salad with tahina, fried eggplants, grilled tomatoes, grilled onions and an array of other wonderful foods.
Throughout the country, Jewish families take trips across Israel during the Sukkot holiday, to see historic sites and places of natural beauty with members of their large extended families.
Wherever you are from, have a wonderful, joyful Sukkot holiday!
By: Rachel Avraham, United with Israel