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Originally published Friday, September 28, 2012 at 10:01 AM

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At Jerusalem's Western Wall, remembering the wilderness

Sukkot is both a harvest festival and a remembrance of the 40 years that Jewish ancestors, led by Moses, wandered in the Sinai Desert after their exodus from Egypt.

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Israel tourist information: www.goisrael.com.

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AT THE FOOT of Jerusalem's Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites, ultraorthodox Jews pray, their heads draped with white prayer shawls and their broad-brimmed hats stacked on a chair.

They've gathered for a special blessing during Sukkot, a weeklong annual Jewish holiday that begins Sept. 30 this year.

Sukkot is both a harvest festival and a remembrance of the 40 years that their ancestors, led by Moses, wandered in the Sinai Desert after their exodus from Egypt.

Observant Jews around the world erect a sukkah — a temporary small hut — in their suburban U.S. backyards or on Tel Aviv apartment balconies to celebrate Sukkot. Traditionally roofed with branches, the huts symbolize the wilderness shelters of their ancestors in the desert. Families will eat, pray, even sleep in the huts.

In Israel, Sukkot is both a holy time and a popular vacation period, with a national holiday and Sukkot-linked events at museums, national parks and heritage sites. Visitors to Israel can join in prayers, join in events or join in the happy crowds at the country's beaches.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times' NWTraveler editor. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.

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