For those who may be spending Sukkos in Yerushalayim for the first time, here are some important things about building a Sukkah to keep in mind as the Yom Tov approaches.
In order to build a Sukkah, you need to have a place to build it. For some, this is a non-issue, as their apartment has a mirpeset that allows for a sukkah. Others may have a retractable roof, which in that case, no need to build a sukkah, all is needed is Schach and the sukkah is ready to go. (In case your roof is retractable, realize that if it rains then your house will get wet. The best way to prep for that is to cover any beds you may have set up or anything else that is not waterproof with plastic table clothes – and make sure to have some spare sponja clothes to mop up the water).
Yet, many people do not have a mirpeset or retractable roof and if you fall in that category, you need to ensure you have a place to build your sukkah. In many buildings, there are reserved spots so do not assume you can build anywhere. Unfortunately, there can be a lot of machlokes over sukkah spots. In general, there are two different schools of thought, some buildings go with the idea that the sukkah spot comes with the dira, while others hold that whoever moved in first gets the next available spot. It is important to clarify what your building does in order to know if you have a place to build a sukkah. It could be that things are grey in that area, but remember that it’s motzie Yom Kippur and it may not be worth getting off on the wrong foot with your new neighbor.
With all the above in mind, there are basically two places to build a sukkah, on the roof, or the parking lot. In general, unless you are on a low floor, the roof is a better option. The roof provides a cool breeze, fewer cats to worry about, and more privacy. If you are on a low floor and plan to build on the parking lot, locate a shady spot, as parking lots tend to get very hot and uncomfortable.
Now that you have a place to build a sukkah, what do you need to build one, and how can you be cost-effective? Canvas sukkahs tend to be cheaper than buying boards but it also depends on what stringencies you hold by. Many people try selling their sukkahs so before purchasing new boards or sukkahs, keep your eyes open, or you can ask any groups you are on, and you will be surprised, but some people have extra boards or canvas sukkah. If you are only going to be here short term, there is also the possibility of renting a sukkah, although it does not seem to be cost-effective from the rentals that I have checked. If you are looking to purchase a new sukkah, or sukkah boards and schach, there are many sales around the greater Ramat Eshkol area, for example on Vitznitz in Sanhedria Murchevet, which will actually custom make boards for you. They also have keter tables, chairs, and sukkah lighting and fake grass for the floor of your sukkah for good prices. Standard six-foot table costs around 200 NIS, four keter chairs for 100 NIS, lighting, and grass depends on quality. You will also need extension cords to hook up lighting and duct tape to hold the cords in place. But around sukkos, many people will sell this stuff used and you can get it for much cheaper. You may also need a staple gun and drill, but most people will be happy to lend you theirs, so you probably will not need to stomach that cost.
Decorating does a lot for your sukkah and also gets you into the spirit of the Yom Tov. If you are artistic, a great way to decorate is to paint a mural for your sukkah. You can buy cheap paint on Bar Ilan at the art store there. If you are trying to go for a classier look, or if your sukkah is canvas, hanging glass or plastic ornaments with flowers placed inside from the bamboo creates a beautiful look for your sukkah. You can get ornaments like this at different stores around Bar Ilan area, or you can spend a little more at the art store located near the bus stop on Bar Ilan.
No matter where your sukkah ends up being, or how it ends up looking, enjoy the special atmosphere of Sukkos in Yerushalayim. There is nothing like seeing Sukkah in every corner and watching the entire Yerushalayim getting ready for this special holiday together.