Hanukkah in Israel is an important and iconic festival, widely celebrated and marked by many symbolic events, customs and, of course, food. The Festival of Light is an eight-day festival, a true celebration of hope and freedom. The holiday spirit can be felt throughout the country, if not clearly visible in the streets of Israel. There are lots of holiday events taking place all over the country during Hanukkah. Stuff your faces with sufganiyot and latkes (the diet can start after the holiday ends), join special Hanukkah tours, and take the kids to various museum events and theatrical performances.
hanukkah and covid-19
Across the globe, we are all trying our best to handle this new normal, but unfortunately that means that many of us won’t be spending the holidays the way we normally do. Since many synagogues are closed for services, tours are only operating under severe restrictions, and social distancing in public spaces is required, we at Tourist Israel want to encourage you to stay at home and stay safe. Many annual events are cancelled or postponed, but we want to offer this guide as a general overview for what to expect seasonally, so we will not be removing events from this page. Why not experiment with new latke recipe and savor the glow of your own menorah this year?
The candles of the Menorah at Hanukkah in Israel by RonAlmog on Flickr
The festival of Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century BCE. Upon re-entering the Temple, it was found that there was only enough oil for the menorah which was supposed to be lit every night, to last for one day. Sourcing new oil would take some time, and the miracle of Hanukkah was that the oil burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight-day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle and this is why Hanukkah is observed for eight days and nights.
Sufganiyot donuts popular at Hanukkah in Israel by Avital Pinnick, on Flickr
One symbol of Hanukkah you will see across Israel in both homes and public places are Menorahs or Hanukkiahs. These are small versions of the original Menorah from the Temple. They are displayed traditionally in the homes of Jewish families and are lit every night of the festival, with an extra candle added each night. Most hotels and restaurants have Menorahs on display and there are a ton of community menorah lightings you can attend. It is an amazing time to walk through religious areas such as the Old City of Jerusalem and see all the different designs of menorahs on display in the windows of homes.
Special events in Israel for Hanukkah include an annual relay race of torch-bearers from the city of Modi’in in the Judean Hills to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. Runners relay torches through the streets, passing the torch to the Chief Rabbi who lights the first candle of a large Menorah.