Celebrating Sukkot 2,000 Years Ago

Sept. 23 2021

Today, the holiday of Sukkot—a seven-day festival that began last Monday evening—is characterized primarily by building outdoor booths, or sukkot, and the ritual waving of palm fronds, myrtle and willow branches, and citrons. But prior to the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, it was also a time of mass pilgrimage to the Jerusalem Temple. Rossella Tercatin explains what archaeological and historical evidence have demonstrated about the practice:

The 1st-century CE Roman-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus says that millions of people took part in the pilgrimage, bringing tens of thousands of sacrifices to the Temple. The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria also speaks about the occasion in his work. The [pilgrims’] itinerary was designed in such a way that people would experience what [the archaeologist] Guy Stiebel described as a “wow effect,” similar to that felt by someone visiting a majestic cathedral.

“At the time of Herod, [circa 37-4 BCE], the Temple Mount was known as one of the biggest religious compounds in the Roman world,” he said.

Archaeological excavations have revealed the gate the pilgrims crossed [on their way into Jerusalem at the beginning of the first millennium]. “They would purify themselves in the Siloam Pool and then go straight up to the Temple Mount, through a stepped street which was previously believed to have been built at the time of King Herod,” Stiebel noted. “Now we know that the project was actually carried out under the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, [in the 20s or 30s CE].”

While no traces survive of the ancient booths those Jews probably built to celebrate the holiday, archaeology provides other important evidence of the centrality of the festival of Sukkot. . . . A palm tree bound with some leafy branches—likely the willows and the myrtle—and one or two citrus fruits appear on artifacts that were symbols of freedom and independence from the Romans [during the Jewish revolt of 66-70 CE].

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Josephus, Second Temple, Sukkot

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism