by Mara Vigevani
Shortly after the Yom Kippur fast ended on Saturday night, the sound of hammers and saws could be heard in residential neighborhoods throughout the country. It was the sound of people building Sukkot, temporary booths that commemmorate the temporary dwellings of the Jews during their 40-year sojourn after the exodus from Egypt.
The seven-day Biblical holiday of Sukkot – in the Diaspora, it’s eight days, and is also known as the Festival of Tabernacles — begins Wednesday evening at sunset.
Not everyone can build their own sukkah, however, and in recent years teens from all over Israel have volunteered to help seniors or physically challenged people who need help putting up a sukkah.
The religious youth movement Bnei Akiva is running one such project for the fourth year in a row, with volunteers from around the country.
“Our projects began in the Givatayim Bnei Akiva branch. Four years ago some kids, ages 15 and 16, wanted to commemorate three fallen soldiers and decided to organize this project in their names,” said Sara Bauer, an official of the Bnei Akiva youth movement in Israel. “They began to volunteer and many others, private individuals, municipalities, regional councils and schools decided to join the project.”
This year, the volunteers will erect some 250 Sukkot around the country between Yom Kippur and the start of the Sukkot holiday. Bauer notes that the volunteers will also dismantle the booths at the end of the holiday.
“Sunday we worked in Or Yehuda, Jerusalem, Ashdod, Ramat Gan, Petah Tikva, Ashkelon and elsewhere. I sent people to every single person who asked for help,” says Shani Sahar, volunteer from Bnei Akiva’s Givatayim branch. “We helped a mother from Ashkelon with two girls suffering from Downe’s Syndrome. It was very touching for me to see their joy when we finished the sukkah. Most of the volunteers are from Bnei Akiva and other youth movements, but there are also older volunteers and even entire families that help.”
In other areas of the country, the effort was coordinated by local schools. In the southern Arava desert, the Central Arava Regional Council recruited the entire 10th grade, some 60 teens, from the Regional Shittim Darca High School to build Sukkot for those in need of help.
“The project is intended to strengthen the inter-generational connection based on strengthening the community and social responsibility in the Arava,” said Talia Adi, coordinator of social involvement at the school.
“The senior citizens’ coordinator at the Arava High School Regional Council approached me with the idea of collaborating. The students and the elderly loved it and we decided to expand the activity for additional holidays,” Adi said.
Gabi Dori, 75, from Moshav Ein Yahav in the Arava was very happy to see young people coming out to help. “When they called to ask me if I wanted to build a sukkah for the holiday, I was very excited. It is unusual to see young people working for the sake of the older generation,” Dori said.