Bet Shemesh Sukkot Jewish Rock Festival

As a citizen of Bet Shemesh for the past 14 years, I can tell you that nothing swells our civic pride more than the awesome Jewish Rock Festival that Jonty Zwebner has brought, along with the Bet Shemesh municipality, to our fine city.

Moshav Band Performing at Bet Shemesh Festival in 2003
Moshav Band Performing at Bet Shemesh Festival in 2003

It began about a decade ago as a one night event with five or so groups playing in front of a couple thousand locals. It has blossomed more recently into a big two night festival with many thousands (perhaps 15,000, maybe more?) jamming into the outdoor amphitheater with most of the top names in Jewish Rock, such as Moshav Band, Soulfarm, Adi Ran, Reva L’sheva, Lenny Solomon, and many, many more. As a result, the national media have taken notice.

Here is the Festival’s homepage for links to all the performers and more information.
ShemeshFest Website

Sukkot in Jerusalem is Electric

The crowds, the energy, the excitement.  Those of us who are fortunate to live in Israel and live in or close enough to Jerusalem, know that this coming week of Sukkot is perhaps the best time of the year.

Narrow Alleyways in Jerusalem's Old City

Just like in ancient times when the Temples stood, throngs of Israelis visit Jerusalem from all over the country, along with Jewish tourists from the Diaspora.  The electricity in the air is truly amazing.

Sukkot is one of the three Festivals which include Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot that Jews are commanded to literally go up with their feet (“aliyat regel”) to Jerusalem.  It is a positive commandment described in the Torah that all of Israel should rise up to Jerusalem and be seen by His Temple.  Today, we are not commanded to go Jerusalem on these three festivals as the Temple no longer stands, however, it is customary, particularly for observant Jews, to visit Jerusalem at least once during the 7 day Festival (the 8th day, Simchat Torah/Shemini Hag Ha’atzeret, is actually a different holiday that G_d gave to the Jews as an extra show of His appreciation for the Chosen People.

In this photo, throngs of visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City push their way to the Western Wall on the day of the renewed ceremony  “Birkat Kohanim”, where thousands of Kohanim bless the nation as was done in ancient times.

Blessing the four species at the Western Wall
Blessing the four species at the Western Wall

A central part of the Festival of Sukkot is to take four species from the land, an Etrog, Hadas, Arava, and Lulav (Citron, Myrtle, Willow, and Palm Branch) and to make a blessing on them.  The reason is not given in the Torah, however it is a positive commandment for all of Israel.

Large Lulav and Etrog

A Very Large Lulav and Etrog

Jews are commanded on Sukkot to live 7 days in a Sukkah, which reminds us of the Children of Israel who lived forty years in sukkot (temporary dwellings) ‘booths’ in the desert on their journey from Exodus of Egypt into conquering the Land of Israel.

Today, many strictly observant Jews still abide by this commandment and dwell in their sukkot for all seven days.  Others prefer to sleep in their houses.

One of the truly amazing sites in Israel during the Sukkot holiday is to see so many sukkot attached to homes, apartments, businesses, schools, shopping malls, restaraunts, and every where else (even on the beach!).  We wish all Israel a happy and enjoyable Sukkot Holiday!

Sukkah Decorations

Sukkah Decorations