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Celebrating Hanukkah in Israel

An Insider's Guide

Israel Experts Staff
Halva Donut on Hanukkah

Hanukkah will soon be upon us, and in the Holy Land of Israel, schools will be on vacation and scores of visiting families and Birthright Israel tour groups will flock to the country and take advantage of the many holiday-related attractions and events that are open to the public. From local museums providing a Hanukkah-related spin on their exhibitions, to special outdoor events and self-guided holiday-inspired tours, Hanukkah in Israel is truly a magical experience. 

Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights

Hanukkah is celebrated in part because of the miracle that a tiny jug of oil, enough meant to light the Temple’s menorah for a single day, lasted for eight whole days. Nowadays, Hanukkah menorahs are lit in each home and in public venues for eight days, prompting the initiation of many light-related festivities. 

Take part in launching Hanukkah with the country’s annual torch relay. Line up with the masses at the entrance to the city of Modiin and pass a flaming torch all the way to the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem, from which a giant Hanukkah menorah is lit.

Meander through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City or Nachlaot neighborhoods, or venture to ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak for a candle-lit walking tour of traditional communities festively celebrating after lighting their own Hanukkah menorahs. Guided tours are available to the public for a fee, although self-guided visits to the communities are also permitted and can be exceedingly engaging.

The Festival of Oily Goodness

Keeping in line with the “oil miracle” behind the celebration of Hanukkah, traditional fried sufganiyot (filled donuts) are all the rage, with bakeries coming up with new and trendy recipes for the yummy desserts each year. Budget permitting, a great Hanukkah activity involves scouting the various eateries and tasting the country’s most popular Hanukkah confections. Some establishments may play it safe with strawberry jelly and powdered sugar, but others are known for their alcoholic infusions, chocolate concoctions and nutty toppings. Waistlines beware! Sufganiya taste-testing is scrumptious - and addictive!

A Great Festival for the Young - And Young At Heart

Throughout the eight days of Hanukkah, Israel is abuzz with scores of parties, multiple cultural events, live shows and holiday-inspired exhibits. Whether a raging Tel Aviv street party is up your alley, you’re more inclined to visit the Land of Israel Museum’s Word Press Photo Exhibit or you’re itching to take advantage of Hanukkah sales in shopping malls throughout the country, Hanukkah in Israel means eight days of fun for everyone - and is a perfect opportunity for the young - and young at heart to visit Israel on Birthright trips, tour the country with a group of friends or connect with family members.

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