High holidays, being a special time for Jews worldwide, are particularly special in Israel, the Jewish state. Though there are celebrations all over the world, it is extra powerful when most of the country is celebrating with you. Though a typical private tour in Israel is actually more difficult during the high holidays, if you come to experience the holidays themselves, it is a wonderful experience.
Where else in the world can you go where you can hear shofar being blown in the streets on Rosh Hashanah? Before the holiday, you can even visit a shofar factory and see how the amazing rams’ horns are made! Go to a local supermarket and see entire shelves of honey for the holiday, as well as pomegranates prominently displayed as their season begins.
On Yom Kippur, the whole country stops. All businesses close, transportation stops, even the airport closes. With no cars on the road, Tel Aviv has a tradition of everyone taking to the streets by bike in the evening. In Jerusalem, you find everyone out in the streets walking and talking with their neighbors. If you are in Israel for Yom Kippur, take some time to wander around in the evening and become part of the unique atmosphere.
Lastly is sukkot. The longest of the holidays, with 8 days, there is so much to do. In the days leading up to the holiday, markets open throughout the country to sell the four species (lulav and Etrog). On Yafo street in Jerusalem a big tent opens up, where you can go to watch people weighing and examining each piece, or go pick your own. You can even try to bargain for a good price!
In Mea Shaarim, a very religious are of the city (you must make sure to dress very modestly if you go) there are stands all over selling the lulav and Etrog. And while you’re out buying the four species, take note of all the sukkahs popping up all around you. In parking lots, on roofs and patios, you can see the small shelters at home all across the country. Instead of being the odd one who has a strange little hut in their yard in the U.S., here in Israel it is the norm.
chol hamoed sukkot
Since the holiday itself is only one day in Israel, instead of the two celebrated outside of Israel, there is one more day of chol hamoed, the intermediate days of celebration between the beginning and end of sukkot. Being that sukkot is generally vacation in schools and many workplaces, the country is bustling with fun activities, outings, and special events for all ages to help celebrate sukkot.
Be like the Israelis who take trips to the north and south. It’s a beautiful time of year to explore the streams, waterfalls, and springs that Israel has to offer. Enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. For an extra special experience, join tens of thousands of people at the annual birkat hakohanim, priestly blessing that happens once on Sukkot and once on Passover at the Western Wall every year.
Sukkot ends with Simchat Torah, the holiday to celebrate the Torah. Join people celebrating in the streets and dancing around with the Torah. Though Jewish communities worldwide dance with the Torah, it is less common to find them out in the streets. Here in Israel, though, it is the norm, and no one will look at you funny.
With all of these events and activities, experiencing the high holidays in Israel is incredibly special. Even the buses wish you a shana tova, gmar chatima tova, and chag sameach! Come visit Israel during this exciting time of year, and even if you want to tour during the holidays, be sure to also take notice of the unique atmosphere and all the little things Israel does to celebrate. Feel free to contact us at Dekel Tours if you want help including this in your family trip in Israel, or if you are here over the holidays and want to plan a one day private tour in Israel.