Several times this Sukkot I found myself in the Nachlaot area of Jerusalem. If you’ve never heard of Nachlaot, it is one of the Carlebach-style (i.e. somewhat hippy-ish) neighborhoods here in town. It’s characterized by narrow & winding alleys, long flowing skirts, bright colors, and the constant presence of music. The people in Nachlaot are usually on the more observant side of the spectrum, but in a very different way than (for example) Chabad. They are intensely spiritual people, very focused on connecting to G-d, and they often use music or meditation to do so. They are also very artistic people, obviously with music, but also with jewelry, weaving, painting, and random arts & crafts. In other words, if you’re looking to get away from “the grind”, Nachlaot is a great place to visit without traveling too far.
During Sukkot, there is live music, festivals, fairs, and good times to be had all over the country of Israel. And while there were times that we felt like getting out of the city for an adventure, there are also those times where a 30 minute walk sounds much more appealing. Sunday night after a long day at the Kotel for Birkat Kohanim, there was a group of us that walked over to the center of Nachlaot in search of some live music, and we found it! Festival Regalim (regalim means festivals) in Nachlaot happens twice a year for Pesach and Sukkot. It’s an all-day live music festival and craft fair, with people from all different walks of life passing by throughout the day.
When we got to the festival it was already well underway, with a crowd of people around the stage and many more strolling the sides of the square where all of the artists had their tables set up. We ran into a few other girls that we know from seminary or Shabbos meals, and found a place to watch from. The music was lively, and the crowd was just as entertaining to watch, if not more so. The characters in Nachlaot are a show themselves. My personal favorite was the 20-something year old guy wearing a bright purple shirt with tzitzit on the outside instead of underneath. He was clearly inebriated, but he was dancing around like crazy and made a point to give every single guy at the entire festival a hug at some point during the evening. Watching everyone’s reactions was like having our own personal soap opera. After a few hours there, we headed into town for a little while to meet up with some friends visiting from the states before the walk home. It was a successful night 🙂
The next day there were a few huge music festivals going on all over Israel. The two major ones were in Chevron and in Moshav Modiin. I heard that they were going to be amazing, but after dealing with the thousands and thousands of people at the Kotel the day before, I just couldn’t bring myself to be around huge crowds for the second day in a row. I’m really not so much of a people person and crowds tend to be very emotionally and physically taxing for me, so I decided to stay local while everyone got their fix of pushing and shoving.
Instead, I walked back to Nachlaot. There is a group called the Jerusalem Soul Center (JSC) that is based out of Nachlaot and the Old City. The Rabbi who runs it, Ezra Amichai, recently married a friend of mine from the states (Carly, now Malka Chana). I decided it was time that I paid Carly a visit and met this husband of hers. Since JSC was having a Sukkot event on Monday evening, it seemed like the perfect time!
It was a great decision. Their sukkah is on the porch of their gorgeous house, overlooking Jerusalem. It’s decorated with rugs and drapes, filled with pillows and cushions. A table is in the middle of the room with a hookah on it. It’s lit by candles and filled with 20 of the most random and laid-back people you’ll ever meet. Throw in a few guitars for some live music and Carly’s great food, and it was one of the most relaxing nights I’ve had in a long, long time. Needless to say, I’ll be returning to JSC soon (IYH) and bringing friends!
Moral of the story is: if you’re in Jerusalem and you need a place to chill out for a day, the 30 minute walk is 100% worth it. Thanks to all of those in Nachlaot for making Sukkot a week to remember 🙂