From Ritual to Protest: Sukkot in the Garden of Hope
- Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum
- University of Minnesota Press
- Volume 24, Number 1, Spring 2017
- pp. 1-25
- View Citation
- Additional Information
In 2010 and 2011, as civil demonstrations erupted around the world, the observance of Sukkot, the annual Jewish holiday that commemorates the Israelites' biblical journey through the Sinai Desert to the Promised Land, came to embody the contemporary struggle for social and economic justice. During this weeklong autumn festival, observant Jews traditionally build and inhabit temporary outdoor ritual structures called sukkot, which translates from Hebrew to "booth" or "tabernacle." This practice creates a unique opportunity for creative expression through the construction, decoration, and interpretation of the sukkah (singular of sukkot) and for social interaction through the holiday's customary rite of hospitality. Ethnographic research conducted from 2010 to 2011 in Shchunat Hatikva (Neighborhood of Hope), a working-class, multiethnic neighborhood in south Tel Aviv, Israel, uncovers the purpose and variety of Sukkot observance in a community struggling with economic constraint and social neglect. Addressing the history of the holiday and its practice in south Tel Aviv in the fall of 2011, as housing and Occupy demonstrations took root across the country and the world, this study bridges the fields of vernacular architecture and folklore studies. Challenging the holiday's symbolic promise of shelter, the search for house and home among Israel's disadvantaged and migrant populations reframes the narrative and observance of Sukkot with both reaffirming and subversive expressions of sukkah construction and use.