Sukkot – The Festival of Booths

Sukkot - Jewish heritage Tour in a Natural Biblical Setting

The Festival of Booths

Like Passover and Shavuot, Sukkot has both agricultural and historical components. Succot is one of the three pilgrim festivals which is directly related to the agricultural cycle and the land of Israel.

Succot as a Historical Festival

Historically, Sukkot commemorates the 40 years which the Children of Israel wandered in the desert after leaving the slavery of Egypt before entering the Land of Israel.

“…that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in sukkot (booths) when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43)

Succot as an Agricultural Festival

Sukkot marks the end of Israel’s annual agricultural cycle, and is also referred to as Chag ha-Asif  (Festival of Ingathering)

“You shall keep the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor.” (Exodus 23:16)

“You shall keep the feast of sukkot (booths) seven days, when you gather in from your threshing floor and your wine press”. (Deuteronomy 16:13)

With the agricultural year ending on Sukkot, the early Israelite farmers could rejoice without trepidation: the barley and wheat had been harvested and brought in from the threshing floor; figs and raisins had been taken in before the first rains from the rooftops where they were drying in the sun; the olive harvest had begun, and date clusters were ripening on the date palms.

Succot as a celebration of the “four species”

“And you shall take on the first day the fruit of a goodly tree, date palm fronds, the branch of a leafy tree, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days” (Leviticus 23:40)

These four species represent the agricultural journey of the nation of Israel:

Date palm fronds grow in desert oases and signify the 40 years that the Children of Israel wandered in the Sinai wilderness.

Willows of the brook grow along the banks of the Jordan River where the Israelites encamped before entering the Promised Land

The branch of a leafy tree comes from a tree with dense foliage that the Israelites found upon entering the Land of Israel.  The Talmudic Sages determined that this “leafy tree” was the myrtle, which still grows abundantly in uncultivated mountainous areas of Israel.

Fruit of a goodly tree like the “leafy tree” is not identified in the Torah. The Talmud teaches that this was the etrog (citron), considered a “luxury” crop because it is very difficult to grow in Israel. It is the only fruit among the Four Species and it represents the zenith of Israelite agricultural development.

Succot at Neot Kedumim Biblical Nature Reserve

Neot Kedumim Biblical Park has the only authentic Succah exhibition in the world.  We have over 20 life size Succahs constructed according to the deliberations of the sages in the Mishna and Talmud. During the Succot festival the exhibition is a hive of activity with all the Succahs on full show including a Succah on a boat, on a camel and up a tree.

The four species trail takes you on a shady meander through date palms (lulav), Etrog trees, myrtle bushes and willow trees. Seeing up close helps understand the reasons why these four were chosen by the sages over other possibilities.

For further details of Succot tours and outdoor activities:

Please check our homepage for activities and tours or contact the Incoming Tourism Department at Neot Kedumim, The Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel
Telephone: + 972 8 9770782  Telefax: + 972 8 9770766  E-mail: tourism@n-k.org.il

For more information on the history and agricultural connections of Sukkot, please see the book “Nature in Our Biblical Heritage” by the founder of Neot Kedumim, Nogah Hareuveni.