The Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, which is currently being celebrated, is one of the bible’s three pilgrimage festivals, marked by the obligation to appear at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Although today the Temple no longer stands in the Holy City, some 8,000 people plan to embark on a recreation of that annual pilgrimage.
This is not the first time the Sukkot pilgrimage has been revived in modern Israel. Back in the 1950s, the Israeli government and the IDF established a four-day march to Jerusalem to commemorate the festival. After thirteen years, the march was reduced to three days, and in 1975 became merely a march around the city.
This year’s pilgrimage will involve a two-day trek to Jerusalem. According to Israel HaYom, the parents of kidnapped and murdered teen Naftali Frenkel, Rachel and Avi Frenkel, will be participating. Alongside them will march government ministers, MKs and other notable citizens.
One participant, Shlomo Betat, told Israel HaYom that he attended the march 51 years ago as a young soldier. This year, he will be bringing his grandchildren.
“I took part in the ‘four-day march’ in 1963 as a soldier in the Artillery Corps,” Betat recalls. “My children and my grandchildren are very excited. They went and found the medal I received when I completed the march 50 years ago.”
The event is being organized by the Mitchabrim organization, a group whose name means “connecting”. The march is open to all sectors of Israeli society, and will be attended by Israeli Arabs and Druze, as well.
Mitchabrim organizers Ram Shmueli and Avihu Soffer said, “The objective is to unify the people and Israeli society in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge. There is grave concern over divisiveness, ignorance and a disconnection between the different parts of Israeli society. The people taking part in the march prefer the things that bring the different parts of society together over the things that divide.”
There is no better time for such an initiative than Sukkot. Of all Jewish holidays, it is the one defined by the Bible as being for all nations. The book of Zechariah speaks of the surrounding countries making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem at the end of days to pray for rain.
Sukkot is celebrated each year two weeks after the Jewish New Year. This year, the holiday falls from the evening of October 8 to October 15. It is followed immediately by the holiday of Shmini Atzeret on October 16.