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Sukkot Site-Hopping in Jerusalem

Jerusalem—Sukkot, one of the three times of the year that the Jewish people are commanded by the Torah to travel to Jerusalem, retains this practice thousands of years later, as tourists and locals alike make their way to and around the capital, seeing the age-old sights, eating the hearty food (in sukkot, of course), and renewing their connection with their Creator. As Israel’s capital prepares for its tri-annual pilgrimage, JLNJ offers its readers a short guide to some of the most popular and off-the-beaten-path activities happening in Jerusalem over Sukkot.

When? Tuesday, October 10, 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Cost: 30 NIS per participant in the longer routes, to be paid at the beginning of the march

The Jerusalem March, Tza’adat Yerushalayim in Hebrew, is an annual tradition that began in 1955 as a four-day hike to Jerusalem for a mixed crowd of predominantly IDF soldiers to test their limits and feel a personal connection to the pilgrimage independent of religious background. More recently, the march was decreased to only a few hours, and became much more family friendly, with activities for children and adults alike along its shortened route.

This year, the Jerusalem March will offer three routes: a 17-km difficult walk, beginning in Hurvat Sa’adim National Park (near Ein Kerem), between 7:00 and 9:00; a 10-km medium route, beginning in Gilo, between 7:30 and 9:30; and an easier 5-km family-friendly route, beginning in Armon HaNatziv, between 8:00 and 10:00. All routes will walk along the old train track and pass through the First Station and the center of town (Ben Yehuda St. area) before converging at Sacher Park. A separate children’s parade and events will be taking place the entire day beginning at 10:00 at Gan Sacher. Distinguished politicians and public figures will be taking part in the march and subsequent events.

Whether one is planning to join the expected 50,000 participants, cheering on from the side or joining the celebrations at the end, the Jerusalem March is the perfect way to help all feel like they too are taking part in a Jerusalem pilgrimage.

For more information, please visit https://www.jerusalem.muni.il/RecreationandCulture/Sports/SportMSG/Pages/JerusalemMarch.aspx (Hebrew)

When? Sunday, October 8, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Where? Kibbutz Ramat Rachel

Cost: 30 NIS per adult, 35 NIS per child (advance registration required)

One of the most charming parts of Israel’s agriculture is its adherence to seasonality—outside of its season, produce is almost impossible to find, but, within their seasons, fruits and vegetables are deliciously fresh. Sukkot is typically right in the middle of the Israeli strawberry season, and there’s no better way to celebrate than to handpick tutim.

Ramat Rachel, a historical center of agriculture in the Judean Hills (though now within Jerusalem’s municipal borders), is the perfectly convenient place to harvest strawberries. On Sunday of Chol Hamoed Sukkot, the kibbutz will open up its fields to visitors to pick their own tutim. Other attractions on site will include chocolate fondue, stations for preparing strawberry-flavored drinks, pita-baking classes and inflatable attractions.

Want to cool off after a long day picking fruit in the sun? Visit Ramat Rachel’s newly refurbished pool, available to outside guests for an additional fee.

For more information, please visit: http://www.ramatrachel.co.il/attractions/strawberry/ (Hebrew)

When? All days of Chol Hamoed

Where? Emek Hatzva’im Nature Reserve (near Pat Junction and Malha)

Cost: Free

Gazelle Valley, or Emek Hatza’im in Hebrew, has historically been the home of over 17 gazelles who survived Jerusalem’s urban construction by remaining in an undeveloped area of 260 dunams (approximately 64 acres) between the Giv’at Mordechai, Bayit Vagan and Kiryat Yovel neighborhoods. When this area was designated in 1990s for construction of the Begin Expressway, the gazelles were temporarily displaced while a more permanent home could be built for them. Completed in 2015, the Emek Hatzva’im Nature Reserve is Israel’s only urban nature reserve, and the gazelles roam free in a large, enclosed area. Gazelle Valley is still considered by many locals (including this author) to be one of the most under-visited attractions in the city, as most of the thousands who drive by on the nearby, busy thoroughfares daily may have no idea of its existence.

In honor of Sukkot, Emek Hatzva’im will be hosting several free activities every day of Chol Hamoed in the reserve, including live music shows, family-oriented workshops, guided tours of the sizable grounds and, on Sunday only, there will be a station for pressing olives.

For more information, please contact +972 72-3932794

Aside from these activities, readers may be interested in joining the annual mass Birkat HaKohanim at the Western Wall (on Sunday, October 8, Shacharit at 8:45, Birkot HaKohanim expected around 9:30 and 10:30). President Reuven Rivlin will also be opening up his home (HaNasi 3, Jerusalem) to welcome visitors on Monday October 9, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The Jerusalem Municipality’s sukkah, in Safra Square, will be open all seven days of Sukkot, and is always worth a “sukkah-hop” when passing by. For the more intrepid of heart, a special Tanach-themed Escape Room will be operated in the Old City by the Jewish Quarter Development Organization during the days of Chol HaMoed.

These events, and so many more, await visitors and locals in Jerusalem over the holiday of Sukkot, ensuring that just as pilgrims are commanded not to come empty-handed, they surely won’t leave empty-handed either. The Jewish Link of New Jersey wishes its readers—whether spending Sukkot in Jerusalem, elsewhere in Israel or abroad—a Happy Sukkot and a Chag Sameach!

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