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. During 2023, Rosh Hashanah will begin on Friday evening, September 15, and end at sundown on Sunday, September 17. In many ways, being in Israel during Rosh Hashanah is like Shabbat where most businesses are closed.
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 the Western Wall to hear the prayers. Jewish people attend special holiday services at synagogue 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. In the Jewish tradition, 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 a Jewish house of worship, it is special just to hear the sound of the shofar. Often, it can be heard from outside the synagogue. You may see crowds gathered outside the synagogue, this is a special time to hear the shofar.
What’s the Best Way to Celebrate the Jewish New Year?
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 in Israel include apples and honey. They 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. This 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 Rosh Hashanah custom in the afternoon where Jews walk to a river or another flowing body of water. Here, you shake out your pockets and symbolically cast your 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”. This means “Have a good new year” in Hebrew. The period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called “The Ten Days of Repentance”. This is when 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, which falls on 24-25th of September 2023.
Rosh Hashanah: What’s On
Be sure to check out our other September events to stay updated on all the thrilling things to do in Israel this month.