September 21, 2023, JNS.org
For most Jews, a sukkah conjures a booth with canvas or wooden walls, and bamboo or some sort of foliage on top as schach. Growing up in Sydney, Sarah Sassoon, 42, had a very different experience. The sukkahs that her Iraqi-born father made were composed mostly of palm tree branches—both walls and schach.
That and other Iraqi-Jewish traditions can offer hints of what Judean practices were like 2,000 years ago, according to Sassoon. Iraqi Jews, or “Babylonian Jews,” as she prefers to call them, are the closest geographically and historically to the exile of the Kingdom of Judah to Babylon in the late sixth century BCE.
“Palm trees are such a deep symbol,” including on ancient Judean coins, Sassoon told JNS, in a video call from her home in Jerusalem, where she lives with her husband and four sons.
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