Channukah in Israel is a very special time. From the moment Sukkot ends, the country already starts preparing. If you are here for your family trip to Israel during this time, make sure to get into the spirit.
From grocery stores to malls, you notice different channukah things all over. In preparation for the holiday, some train stations have free sufganiot (jelly donuts). Every bakery, supermarket, and market has sufganiot as well, and not just the jelly kind. If you don’t like jelly donuts, don’t worry! They sell donuts with all different fillings and toppings, from chocolate to dulche de leche to pistachio to halva, you can find it all! If you forgot you’re your channukiah, no need to fret! You can buy them all over, and even grocery stores have some for less than $10 (it may not be the fanciest or nicest, but they’re cute and better than nothing).
All over the country, it is a very festive time
In Jerusalem, you can go on walking tours in the evening in the Old City, Nachlaot, or Mea Shearim to see all of the channukiot lit in the windows. Some of the Channukiot are even in boxes outside the house, to ensure that people walking in the streets get to enjoy them. If you go to Machane Yehuda at night when all the bars are open, you’ll find some of the owners publicly lighting candles and singing the blessings with everyone around. There are public candle lighting ceremonies in many places, from the Western Wall to the First Train station.
In Haifa, they celebrate Hannukah, Christmas and Ramadan with concerts, shows, and more, particularly on the weekends. In Tel Aviv, there is live music and activities for children, as well as a public channukiah lighting in Independence Park. In Tzfat, in the Galilee, there is a tradition of eating cheese dishes, to commemorate the biblical story of Judith. In this tradition, two dairies are open throughout the holiday to allow visitors to watch the cheese-making process as well as have some tasty samples!
Not only are cities themselves involved, but parks, museums, and theaters and stores also have celebrations during the season. Some of the national parks such as Herodian, Beit Guvrin, and Tzippori hold events such as having archaeologists give special tours, and hosting candle lightings with warm drinks and sufganiot. Museums participate in the celebrations with special events and theatrical tours. Theaters have discounted tickets for children, and stores have major discounts. Whenever you look around a store, the first question is “Is this a gift for someone?” And every checkout asks if what you are buying is a gift and if you want it wrapped.
All of these amazing holiday experiences are excellent to include in your private tour in Israel. Whether it is during a day with a guide, or even on your days at leisure, take advantage of the fact that you are in Israel during this time of year, and join the locals to celebrate the holidays!