Rosh Hashanah in Israel is one of the most special and meaningful times of the year – Happy new year to those who celebrate! The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah and usually falls during September or early October. Rosh Hashanah is a two-day holiday which celebrates the start of the new year according to the Jewish calendar. Businesses across Israel will be closed on both days, so bear this in mind if you are in Israel during the period. In 2020, Rosh Hashanah will begin at sundown on September 18 and end at sundown on September 20. In many ways, being in Israel during Rosh Hashanah is like Shabbat where most businesses are closed.
ROSH HASHANAH & Covid 19
Covid-19 has brought with it many safety and health concerns, meaning that synagogues, events, and festivals are either closed or operating under greatly reduced circumstances. Many local synagogues will offer virtual services so you can still hear the shofar blow and usher in a sweet New Year. This time of year is when we focus inward and consider what change and renewal this season may bring, and with such a chaotic year, maybe some time to refocus on what’s most important to us is what we all need.
Being in Israel during Rosh Hashanah
If you are in Israel during the Rosh Hashanah holiday, one of the best ways to experience the holiday is by visiting a synagogue to hear the prayers. Jews attend quite lengthy synagogue services and recite special prayers and liturgical songs written over the centuries. These vary between Jews who have developed different prayers based on where they were living for hundreds of years. The blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn) is an iconic symbol of Rosh Hashanah – 100 (or 101) shofar blasts are sounded in the synagogue to symbolize God’s sovereignty over the world and remind Jews of the giving of the commandments on Mt. Sinai and of Abraham and Isaac’s devotion to God. They arouse people to repentance and to herald the Day of Judgment and the coming of the Messiah. If you aren’t able to attend synagogue, it is special just to hear the sound of the shofar, which can be heard from outside the temple. You may see crowds gathered outside the synagogue, this is a special time to hear the shofar.
Visiting Jerusalem during Rosh Hashanah is a very spiritual and meaningful experience. Join our Jerusalem tours, which depart daily and operate throughout the holidays. Our tours visit the Western Wall and other important religious sites.
Symbols of Rosh Hashanah in Israel
Other symbols of Rosh Hashanah include apples and honey which are customarily eaten along with other sweet foods to symbolize a sweet new year. During Rosh Hashanah, and just before the holiday begins, you will see round challah (braided sweet bread), often with raisins, inside in many bakeries. The round shape of the bread is symbolic of the circle of life and the yearly cycle. Along with other sweet baked goods, one of the most popular treats for Rosh Hashanah is honey cake, which can also be found in many bakeries. It is also traditional to eat fruit, like pomegranates, that have not yet been eaten during the season. Since they are ripe this time of year, they taste extra sweet and delicious.
Tashlich is a custom carried out on Rosh Hashanah afternoon where Jews to walk to a river, lake, or another flowing body of water, to shake out one’s pockets and symbolically cast one’s sins into the water. If you come to Israel during this period, it is interesting to see religious Jews performing this custom. You can visit many of the beautiful beaches in Israel, where you can practice Tashlich or observe it.
If you want to wish people a happy new year, you can say “Shanah Tovah,” which means “Have a good year” in Hebrew. The period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called “The Ten Days of Repentance,” during which people have the opportunity to atone for their sins. Yom Kippur is a day when Israel grinds to a halt – check out this page for information about being in Israel during Yom Kippur.
Rosh Hashanah Events – 2020 Events Coming Soon!
More Rosh Hashanah Events will be updated when they become available. Check out our events page for other happenings here.