The Israeli city of Netanya hosted the first-ever Sukkot World Festival on October 16-18, in salute to the diverse traditions of Jewish communities across the globe. Jewish communities from 21 nations built model huts and offered a taste of disparate traditions during the Sukkot festival in Israel.

Sukkot world festival in Netanya


By Avigayil Kadesh

The Israeli city of Netanya hosted the first-ever Sukkot World Festival on October 16-18, in salute to the diverse traditions of Jewish communities across the globe.

Coordinated by the municipality with the Ministry for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs and Beit Hatfutsot -The Museum of the Jewish People, the festival introduced thousands of visitors to different ways of celebrating the fall harvest holiday, when Jews eat their meals in outdoor huts (sukkot) like the ancient Jews lived in following their exodus from Egypt.

Representatives of 21 countries accepted the invitation to build model sukkot at Winter Lake Park in the Israeli coastal city: Argentina, Belarus, Canada, England, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Holland, Italy, Moldova, Morocco, Norway, Peru, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and the United States.

Each booth was designed in the style traditional to local Jewish communities, and featured other aspects particular to the country. For instance, the Canadian sukkah offered a demonstration of musical instruments made out of shells, paint buckets, pots and pans in order to show how Canada is one of the world’s leaders in recycling. Visitors also had a chance to sample dishes from the various countries on the festival’s Avenue of Flavors.

Sukkot world festival in Netanya

Ethiopian girls in traditional dress preparing for the festival

Children’s crafts activities, workshops and musical performances by some of Israel’s top stars, including Shiri Maimon, Shimon Buskila and Shlomi Shabbat, rounded out the festival.

Joining Israeli and Diaspora Jews

"We initiated the Sukkot World Festival as part of our efforts to encourage familiarity between Israeli and Diaspora Jews and to convey the message that we are all part of the same story of the great and wonderful Jewish people," said Minister of Information and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein.

"It is very important for Israeli Jews to appreciate the diversity which exists within the communities beyond Israel’s shores. Events like these help strengthen the bond with the Diaspora and enhance mutual Jewish identity and pride between our community and fellow Jews across the globe," said Edelstein, adding that for many participants, the festival offered a unique opportunity to meet Jews from far-flung communities.

"The city of Netanya is blessed with diverse communities, and our residents make up a fascinating, multilingual mosaic," said Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg Ikar, explaining why her city is a good choice to host the festival, which is hoped to become a yearly event.

Avinoam Armoni, CEO of the Museum of the Jewish People, brought along 50 computers so that participants could enter or search their family trees in a national database. There was also a station set up by the ministry where people could send New Year’s greetings to Jews anywhere in the world, using interactive touch screens.

"Israel’s very character is built upon the diversity that we take from our roots all across the globe, and this event [offered] a special and fascinating way to explore this all-important aspect of our national identity," said Edelstein.