I know Alli already talked a bit about Sukkot, but here’s a little extra thing that she didn’t mention.
When the Jewish temple stood, traditional Jewish practice required each person to show up at the Temple three times a year for the festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. Needless to say, Jerusalem and the temple became a hub of activity during these times. Since the destruction of the Temple (in 70 CE), however, the divine imperative to travel to Jerusalem at these times no longer held (as we could no longer offer the special festival sacrifices at the Temple). With the birth of the modern state of Israel and the use of cars and planes, opportunities to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to the site of the former Temple on these festivals suddenly became much more practically for thousands of people. Thus, we now have the current phenomenon of thousands of visitors and native Israelis piling into Jerusalem and, particularly, the Western Wall plaza on the three festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. (I should point out for those who are unaware, the Western Wall was never part of the Temple itself – when Herod filled in the area around the Temple with dirt to level off the top of the mountain, he also built walls surrounding the Temple to retain all of that dirt. Hence the Western Wall is the western wall of this outer retaining wall.) While Shavuot is a one day holiday, Pesach and Sukkot are week long holidays, with only the first and last days having restrictions on the use of cars and electricity (for example). Thus there are about five days in between where people here generally have off or are on a reduced work schedule and it’s still holiday time and there are no restrictions on using a microphone for services. I don’t know the origins of the following practice, but I imagine it’s related to everything that I just wrote about and the fact that there are all these people visiting or that have free time, and so why not organize something that is reminiscent of what occurred during Temple times. What am I talking about? Well, during the intervening days of Pesach and Sukkot, the people in charge of the religious operation of the Western Wall organize a special service at the Western Wall done over loudspeaker. This past Sukkot, I went there. I decided that I would pray earlier so that I could just be a tourist and film what went on. Unfortunately, I hadn’t cleared off our video card before I went, so I could only film a couple minutes worth of footage. Following is what I shot. It consists of the part of the service where the kohanim bless the people and a bit of the stuff leading up to that. (With the Jewish people there are various subcategories based on our ancestry. According to tradition, a kohen is a person who can trace his ancestry back to Aaron, as in Moses’ brother. Kohanim is the plural of kohen.) Enjoy.