Sukkot: Temporary dwellings

We leave our home to enter the Sukkah,
temporary dwelling for seven days.

Trickles of rain might swell to a shower
dampen the carpet, extinguish the lights

but we exit the Sukkah, damp, unperturbed,
and give thanks for the rain from within our dry walls.

You leave your home for jerry-built housing,
a ramshackle shanty, for who-knows-how-long.

When the rain comes and bursts to a deluge
submerges the ground and the power goes down

you huddle together, shivering, desolate,
bemoaning the storm that is raging outside.


In an article on Sukkot http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ushpizin-welcoming-guests/ Lesli Koppelman Ross focuses on the Ushpizin, the celestial guests whom we invite nightly to join us in the sukkah. Each night a Kabbalistic formula is recited and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David are successively welcomed. Koppelman Ross notes that each of the Ushpizin was uprooted or wandered: Abraham was told by God to leave his father’s house and go to an as-yet undisclosed destination (Bereishit 12:10); Isaac went to Gerar during a famine (Bereishit 26:1); Jacob had to flee from Esau and settle with his uncle Laban (Bereishit 28:2); Joseph was abducted, sold as a slave and ended up in Egypt (Bereishit 37:23-36); Moses was forced to flee to Midian after killing the Egyptian task-master (Shemot 2:11-15); Aaron wandered in the Sinai desert with the people (Shemot 13 and thereafter); and David was a fugitive from Saul (I Samuel 20, 21).

The current European refugee crisis arose through the rising number of refugees and migrants coming to the European Union, across the Mediterranean Sea or Southeast Europe, and applying for asylum. They come from areas such as the Middle East (Syria, Iraq), Africa (Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia), South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh), and the Western Balkans (Kosovo, Albania). According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as of mid-September 2015, 74% of the almost half a million Mediterranean Sea arrivals since the beginning of the year are refugees coming from Syria (54%), Afghanistan (13%) and Eritrea (7%). Most of the migrants are adult men (69%). In April 2015 five boats carrying almost two thousand migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people.

Four million refugees have fled the conflict in Syria since 2011 and some 660,000 have taken refuge in Lebanon in the Bekaa valley. A blizzard hit the area in January 2015 and although the refugees were experiencing their fourth winter in Lebanon, they were still living in makeshift camps, huddled together under plastic sheeting. The Lebanese government is wary of the political consequences of allowing permanent refugee settlements.

On September 21 2015 the European Union approved a plan in which each member nation would take in 120,000 refugees.

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