Sukkot in Israel – a guide for newbies.
Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles) is a week-long Jewish festival. Sukkot in Israel is a time when families take vacations, enjoy cooler days as the summer ends. In Israel, the week of Sukkot is a fun-filled time. Music and art festivals, storytelling, film-festivals and outdoor activities are just some of the more popular activities.
The iconic symbols of the festival are 1) the Sukkah (Tabernacle) and 2) the four species which includes the Etrog (Citron), myrtle (hadas), willow (arava) and palm branch (lulav).
How do things work in Israel over the Sukkot holidays? What public services are open? What are my employment rights? What about public transport – is it available?
First thing to remember that in Israel, only the first and last day of Sukkot is Chag unlike in the Diaspora where two days of Chag are celebrated on either end of the festival. During the Chag – the holy days – shops and offices are closed and services are limited.
The intermediate days are referred to as Hol Ha’Moed and regular holy-day festival restrictions and laws do not apply on these days of Moed (the intermediate days of Pesach are also called Moed).
Your employment rights
For salaried employees, the day of the Eve of Sukkot, is now a paid vacation day. The following day, which is the first day of Sukkot, is also a paid holiday. Jewish owned businesses and shops, in Israel, are closed.
The following week, at the end of the festival, which is the eve (erev) Simchat Torah, the same laws apply.
If, for some reason, your employer has asked you to work you have the right to refuse based on religious observance.
If your employer has asked you to work and you have agreed, you are entitled to 50% more than your usual rate for that day.
The KolZchut website has details of all overtime rates, for all sectors and services
Giving of gifts
It is common for an employer to give employees a gift prior to the Pesach holiday and the Tishrei festivals (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot & Simchat Torah). However, there is no law that states that an employer is required to do so. Gift giving is common practice in some companies but it is at the discretion of the employer alone. Nice if they do, and a bit of a bummer if they don’t.
Shops & public services
On the first and last days of the festival there is generally no public transport but some cities or towns may operate limited services. Check with your local bus service, municipality or regional council for transport options that might be operating on the festival days.
On the festival eve trains operate as per the regular Friday schedule and trains the following day (at the end of the day) will run according to the end-of-shabbat schedule.
It is wise to check the English websites of the major municipalities for Sukkot parking instructions. If you are planning to be in any of the big cities; Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, where parking is at a premium, please check before you go for road closures, parking restrictions and similar information.
Some municipalities offer free parking (blue & white markings) during Sukkot.
- The very best Jewish jokes, funnies and one liners for Sukkot
- Learn new words for Sukkot. Free word sheet with Hebrew, English and transliteration.