Jewish holidays are universal to all Jews, however celebrating a Jewish holiday in Israel is a special experience.
The three pilgrimages to Jerusalem in ancient times during the feast Succot, Pesach, and Shvuot were accompanied by much celebration on the way, reaching a climax upon entering the walled city and the inner sanctuary of the magnificent temple.
While today is only a distant echo of those ancient times, the unique feeling of honoring these holidays in Israel is none the less still a far more vibrant and meaningful event undertaken in the Jewish Holy Land. Who cannot be filled with awe as the Cohens’ conduct a mass public blessing by the Kotel, the Western Wall? A vast sea of people lift up their tallis, prayer shoals, as they receive this ancient blessing from the most holiest spot on earth.
Sukkkot and Shuvout are also filled with scarcely contained joy as the streets are filled with happy Jews overflowing with good will.
These experiences are not only limited to Jerusalem. Festivities on Jewish Holidays bring the streets of every Jewish city and village alive with an abundance of communal joy! Even on lesser known religiously observed days, there is a refined atmosphere that can only be truly felt in the Promised Land. This is equally true for somber days of observance like Tisha b’av, when the Jewish Temple was destroyed. Communities throughout the country sit in consolation fasting and praying together. As the day draws to a close, the bond formed throughout the day gathers strength and participants move on with a stronger sense of communal purpose. After all, these events relate to Israel and it is only in this country that the full extent of observance can literally be felt, a tangible sense of belonging to a people with a past, a present and a future!
Making Aliyah is sure way of fully understanding the communal essence of the Jewish High Holidays.