President Reuven and First Lady Nechama Rivlin on Monday held the traditional Open Sukkah event, inviting the Israeli public to celebrate the holiday at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. Despite the first heavy rains of the season, thousands of guests arrived through the day to greet the President and First Lady, and to take in theatrical and musical performances, arts and crafts, an exhibition of heroes from Jewish history, and a chance to draw a family tree and activities.
This year the Sukkah was themed “Celebrating 70 years in the President’s Sukkah with our brothers and sisters of the Diaspora,” and was held in cooperation with the Diaspora Ministry. For the record, it has only been since the tenure of Israel’s second president, Itzhak Ben-Zvi (1952-1963), that Israel’s presidents have maintained the custom of opening their official residence to the general public during the Sukkot holiday, receiving Israeli citizens and foreign visitors in the presidential sukkah. So this would be the 65th presidential sukkah, but who’s counting.
President Rivlin stated that “the President’s Residence is the home of all the citizens of the State of Israel, each of you here are guests and also hosts. I extend a special welcome to our important guests, our dear guests with disabilities, together we are all one, we are responsible for one another.”
“This house usually welcomes heads of states, ambassadors and dignitaries, but today this house is even more fortunate to welcome those to whom it belongs and those it serves. The President’s Residence is the house of all the citizens of the State of Israel, each of you here are guests and also hosts,” President Rivlin added.
The President made special welcome of the members of Israel’s public with disabilities who came to the sukkah. He said, “I give a special welcome to our important guests, our dear guests with disabilities, together we are all one, we are responsible for each other.”
The President spoke of the importance of the Sukkah’s theme, saying, “The President’s Sukkah has an educational role, to teach the younger generation that lives here in Israel about the Jewish communities of the Diaspora, about their importance and their contribution to humanity, as a part of understanding the history of the Jewish people. We want Israeli citizens to know world Jewry in all its diversity.
“The connection between the People of Israel to Zion was never broken for a moment, and also today, Jews who live in the Diaspora know and express all the time the connection to ‘home’, to the State of Israel, to the Land of Israel,” he said.
Referencing the Four Species of the festival of Sukkot, the President added, “Just as the Etrog (citron) fruit needs the palm branch, the willows and the myrtle [branches], so the bond between all the tribes of Israel and the Diaspora is important to both sides together. This bond must be nurtured and rooted in mutual recognition. I welcome you all, and express my hope that our sukkah will be a ‘tabernacle of peace’ of true listening, and that we will all have a prosperous year. Chag Sameach, Happy Sukkot.”