Two very different Sukkot celebrations in Israel

In many ways, the unusual sukkah customs of Israel’s little-known ancient Samaritan community can’t hold a candle to the country’s most expensive “desert” huts. But it all depends on what you’re looking for.

The elegant sukkahs built by the Samaritans are designed in accordance with the ancient tradition of using dozens of kilograms of fruit picked by family members.

Studio Ya Ya designed this 2015 sukkah for the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. photo/jta-courtesy yarok yarok events design

“Our traditional harvest holiday was observed by the entire family going out to pick fruit,” explained Shahar Yehoshua, a spokesman for Israel’s Samaritan community, which is based in Holon, just south of Tel Aviv. “Every family has their own design and it requires a lot of patience to build.”

The Samaritans define themselves as the descendants of the sons of Joseph, believe only in the Torah and have never left the borders of biblical Israel.

A more common sight in Jerusalem is the many homemade sukkahs built on private balconies and in courtyards. Hotels get into the act, competing with each other to build the fanciest constructs.

Yarok Yarok Events Design, known by its clients as Studio Ya Ya, designs many of Jerusalem’s largest and finest sukkahs, including those at the Waldorf Astoria, King David and Inbal hotels, as well as the president’s residence and the Bible Lands Museum.

Such luxury doesn’t come cheap: Hotels pay $35,000 to $75,000 for their Ya Ya sukkahs, while design services for private clients range from $3,000 to $25,000.

“The sukkahs must be the most magnificent,” said CEO Amit Zakoon. “All the rich and famous come to the hotels, and this holiday is one of the most important to them.” — j. wire services