Hanukkah is a time for celebration with dozens of ways to have fun in Israel during the Festival of Lights, starting this year on December 24th.
Just about every theater company in the country is offering special deals to woo audiences, and museums are featuring interactive exhibits and holiday-themed displays. Bakeries are brimming with treats. Even Burger King’s Israel franchise added the “Sufganiking” to its menu. The burger on a donut bun will be on sale at all local chains December 25-January 1, at a cost of $4 !
Whether you’d prefer to eat holiday foods or get cultured, there are oodles of ways to feel the holiday spirit. In honor of the holiday, here are seven ideas for Hanukkah fun in Israel.
Hanukkah Lights In Jerusalem
Hanukkah’s moniker as the Festival of Lights is best experienced in Jerusalem. People from all over the country, as well as tourists from abroad, come to view the hanukkiyot (Hanukkah menorahs) flickering on windowsills.
Take a self-guided tour or follow a guide from the Jewish Quarter Preservation and Development Company on a Hanukkah tour (December 25th-29th, 2016) through the Old City. Or, take a walk through the religious neighborhoods of Geula, Nachlaot or Mea Shearim, to see the oil lamps alight at night. (In Jerusalem, people tend to use oil lights rather than candles.)
Hanukkah in Israel means donuts! And while choosing which donut to sample is a fun-filled activity in itself, making them is much better. Roladin bakery chain and Saidels Artisan Baking Institute run hands-in-the-dough family-oriented workshops on how to mix, cut, fry, and fill sufganiyot of every kind. Saidels also hosts a Donut Olympics competition for the best decorated donut.
This is no time to count calories. Hanukkah foods are usually fried in oil to remember the Maccabees’ victory over their oppressors and the one flask of oil miraculously burned for eight days in the rededicated Temple in Jerusalem.
Dreidel-spinning Contest (Dec. 26th-Jan. 1st)
Get your spinning finger ready, it is time to prove to other families that you have the best spin in town. The dreidel-spinning contest is one of a handful of Hanukkah-related activities taking place at the Clore Garden of Science at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.
The dreidel features four Hebrew letters. In Israel, the letters are Nun, Gimel, Hay, and Peh. The tradition of playing with dreidels is a reminder of when the ancient Greeks forbade Jews to learn Torah. Tradition holds that kids used to meet up in secret to learn, but if a Greek soldier approached, they would pretend to be gambling with their dreidels.
Light A Candle With Everyone
Public candle-lighting ceremonies take place on street corners, in central tourist spots, and at landmarks in cities. For visitors and locals alike, singing Hanukkah songs and sharing the candle-lighting ceremony creates a unique atmosphere. If Chabad of Israel is organizing the public lighting, jelly sufganiyot will surely be on hand. Municipalities, synagogues, and neighborhood committees also host public lighting ceremonies.
The Neve Sha’anan neighborhood in Tel Aviv is hosting a two-night (December 22nd and 24th) candle-lighting street party. There will be dozens of performances, light projections, music shows, and engaging art in public and private spaces. Included will also be a smorgasbord of food offerings from the Philippines, Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, and China, paying tribute to the people who today call this neighborhood home.
Culture In The Desert
Rocking out to Israeli music in the desert is a special Hanukkah activity. Choose between the 18th Tzlilim Ba’Midbar (Desert Sounds) festival from Dec. 28th-31st in Sde Boker or the Intimidbar happening from Dec. 22nd-27th in Mitzpeh Ramon. Or take part in both!
Intimidbar is an arts festival that includes special Hanukkah shows, such as theater and music for children, alongside yoga, crafts workshops, and lectures. Desert Sounds serves up music from every style, with a focus on Israeli creativity. Both festivals include dozens of free events.
Hanukkah takes the stage
The theater community in Israel works overtime during Hanukkah due to a local tradition of seeing a play during the holiday. The Festigal song-and-dance show, held every year since 1981 at Hanukkah time, is such a popular musical that it lays the soundtrack for the months to come. Shows are taking place in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Beersheva between December 3rd and January 16th.
For something with more educational value, try the annual Hanukkah week-long theater festival at the Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth in Givatayim. This senior repertory theater has 22 productions set for this year.
Hanukkah also is the time for Adraba, the traveling theatrical music show by Mayumana for children. There are also dozens of performances to catch at museums, playhouses, and even at shopping malls, so do not miss out!
L’chaim and Happy Hanukkah!
Originally posted at Israel21c.