The last time I bought a sukkah in the U.S., I went online, selected my model, and clicked the button. UPS brought it the next week. It was a snap-together model, and while not very difficult to figure out how to put together, the instructions did help. My fingers became slightly numb from the New England frost as I assembled it.
That was not the process here in Jerusalem. It was not quite straightforward, so I offer instructions here for those perplexed at the prospect of buying a sukkah in Jerusalem.
1. Go to the local “sukkot depot center.” Actually, it is usually just a tent in a parking lot. These centers are scattered through all major neighborhoods in Jerusalem. In each center, you go from station to station ordering from each what you need – 4 species here; sukkah decorations there; the electrical center for supplies to light your sukkah; the sukkah itself.
2. At the sukkah station you are told to take a seat, where you encounter not just a salesman but your own personal sukkah consultant. “What size?” he (I have not seen a woman in this role) asks. “What sizes do you have?” you may reply. “Whatever you want!” he rejoinds. And so on, through each detail of the sukkah. You chose the kind of fabric you want – anything you want! – as long as it matches one of two choices. Windows, doors – anything you want!
3. When your sukkah consultant is satisfied that you have ordered just the right sukkah for your needs, he consults a set of cryptic tables and emerges with a figure that may or may not be related to the tables. That is the “price.”
4. You take your order form to another station, where you pay. This is all relatively normal, at least in the Israeli sense of normal (i.e., no real line, etc.).
5. You bring the stamped order form to another station to pick up your sukkah. The man there takes your form, looks at it, and says, “How did they sell this?” (I swear, this really happened to me.) He then digs through the poles and starts shouting at the sukkah consultants, about five meters away. Afterwards, he explains to me that they do not have the size that they sold me, but only something slightly bigger, that will cost me only 40 shekels more. In for a penny, in for a pound.
6. You bribe your boys to help you carry the sukkah parts home. A few sweet things usually do the trick.
7. Not wanting to spend money on the bamboo contraption that you can put on top of your sukkah annually, you go down to the corner and buy several, cheap, 3 meter long palm fronds for a roof and then wrestle them up your steps, cutting yourself in only a few places, none of them critical.
8. Discover, thankfully, that the sukkah actually fits in the space allocted to it, and goes together relatively easily. (There were no instructions, though, and I wonder how I would have fared if I had not done this before.) The cheap fabric walls have cheesy decorations, but you can live with them. Put everything together directly under an incredibly hot sun. (Random, slightly dehydrated thought: The Book of Jonah may focus on repentence, but that strange ending also points toward Sukkot. It is still pretty hot here).
9. Settle in to enjoy the sukkah. It might even be good enough to sleep in this year!
To all who are observing, my best wishes for a very happy Sukkot.