Finding palm fronds
for the Feast of Booths

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by — Posted in Contributors, Israel

Israel is gearing up for the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, called Sukkot in Hebrew. The temporary shelters are popping up everywhere: outside homes, on balconies, on roofs, in front of restaurants. I’ve already seen one palm frond vendor. I hope to help build a booth tomorrow and to share photos with you.

Camera and pen

By Koinonia House

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD… Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. – Leviticus 23:34, 42-43

For the second year in a row, Israel will have to find new sources for the palm fronds used for the fall feast of Sukkot (or Succoth). Palm fronds are not a great commodity most of the year, but tens of thousands of them are waved ceremonially throughout Israel on the Feast of Tabernacles, along with citrus, myrtle and willow branches in accordance with Leviticus 23:40.  

In years past, about 40 percent of the unopened palm fronds (lulavs) have been imported from the al-Arish area of the Sinai in Egypt. Trouble in the Sinai, however, will again force Israel to depend on local growers and other sources, like Jordan, and prices will be driven up in comparison to years past.

In 2011, Egypt banned the export of the palm fronds to Israel, and Israel had to scramble to find sources for the high demand of lulavs. Israel had previously imported some 70,000 palm fronds per year in the days leading up to this fun fall feast, and domestic crops are being harvested at higher rates than normal.

According to The Times of Israel, Avner Rotem, manager of date palms on Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi in the Beit Shean Valley, said that there will be enough domestically raised palm fronds to meet the demand.

The Feast Of Tabernacles

Yom Kippur starts began at sundown September 25, beginning the solemn day of fasting and repentance.  A few days after Yom Kippur, though, comes the joyous holiday of The Feast of Tabernacles. This year Sukkot will begin at sunset on Sunday, September 30 and run until sundown on Sunday, October 7th. The word “Sukkot” means “booths” and refers to the temporary dwellings that are built and inhabited during the festival. The Feast of Tabernacles is a time of feasting that commemorates God’s provision during the 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land.

This is a fascinating time of year to visit Israel and see the temporary shelters built in the traditional way, leaving deliberate gaps in the branches to view the stars at night and to let the wind blow through during the day.

At the end of the eight days, the Jews leave their temporary dwellings to return to their permanent homes. (This is one of the reasons some suspect that this feast, rather than the Feast of Trumpets, is suggestive of the Rapture of the Church.) This day, traditionally, is also the day that Solomon dedicated the first Temple.

In the time of Jesus, Sukkot involved a daily processional to the Pool of Siloam to fetch water for the Temple. This ceremonial procession is the setting for the events of John 7, when Jesus offers his listeners living water. To this day, the water-drawing celebrations last until dawn, accompanied by music and dancing.

This holiday also involves waving four types of branches: the willow, the myrtle, the palm, and a citrus (Leviticus 23:40). The willow has no smell and no fruit. The myrtle has smell, but no fruit. The palm has no smell, but bears fruit. The citrus has both smell and bears fruit.  In Judaism, these four branches represent different personalities and kinds among the people of Israel.  However, these descriptions can also be matched in the four soils of the first kingdom parable of Matthew 13.

As Christians we might not celebrate many of the traditional Jewish holidays, yet they hold great spiritual and prophetic significance. Colossians 2:16-17 says, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come." [emphasis added]

Most observers note that the three feasts in the first month of the religious year — Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Feast of First Fruits — are prophetic of the Lord’s First Coming. They each were also fulfilled on the day they were observed.

Between these three feasts and the final three feasts is the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, which is predictive of the Church. (It is also the only feast in which leavened bread is ordained!)

It is believed that the last three feasts, in the seventh month, are prophetic of the Lord’s Second Coming. It seems little coincidence that the seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshanah Rabbah – "Great Salvation".  Many believers are particularly watchful each fall in the hopes that "this" will be the year these final three feasts are fulfilled.   Even if Egypt wants to hold out on delivering its palm fronds.  

For more background, review our briefing package The Feasts of Israel.

[Editors Note: This is the final installment of a three part series on the fall feasts of Israel.]

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Republished with permission