The Uniqueness of Israel
Hanukah in Israel
During your gap year in Israel, you will have the chance to experience many of the Jewish festivals, possibly for the first time. While people do not usually get time off work for Hanukah, there are still plenty of celebratory events taking place and you should definitely do your best to attend some of them.
If you are in Jerusalem, there is an official public candle-lighting ceremony every night of Hanukah at the Kotel. There is also an enjoyable candle lighting ceremony at the Mamilla mall every night that includes music and dancing. Both of these are definitely worth experiencing and you will have plenty of opportunities to do so.
There are also public candle lighting events in Tel Aviv, such as the ‘Light Up Tel Aviv’ event organised by Chabad in Independence Park that features free doughnuts, arts and crafts, face painting, and more. Alternatively, you could witness the ‘Molotov Menorah’ that is lit at the Dancing Camel (Israel’s first microbrewery) each night of the holiday.
After the candle lightning, you can take a walk around the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem and marvel at all the hanukiyot in the windows. It is a truly beautiful sight. Even if you are not in Jerusalem, you are still likely to see many. It is even possible to sign up for organised tours.
Wherever you are in Israel, you can’t fail to notice the massive amounts of doughnuts that appear in the shops and bakeries around Hanukah time. You will also find many workshops that teach you how to make doughnuts from scratch, and this can be a great way to get into the Hanukah spirit. You can then return to your flat and make doughnuts for all your flatmates and the rest of the Aardvark group.
If you really love doughnuts then you could devote some time to sampling different bakeries’ offerings. Head to Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem and you will find a huge array of different doughnuts to try from places such as Roladin and the Marzipan Bakery. Similarly, in Tel Aviv, head to any of the food markets and there are plenty of doughnuts available.
Of course, Hanukah is not only about doughnuts and it provides another opportunity to learn more about Jewish history and Israel. You could visit the Arbel National Park or the Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park to gain some insights into the time of the Hasmoneans when the battles between the Maccabees and Seleucids took place. At both parks, you will find mountainside caves that were used by the Maccabees, as well as some amazing hikes and beautiful scenery.
Throughout Hanukah, you will find that there are many different shows put on in the evenings in Israel’s theatres. It is a great chance to find something that appeals and then test your Hebrew comprehension in a fun environment.
In short, Hanukah is a hugely enjoyable time of year in Israel and while you are there on your gap year, you should do your best to take advantage of it in as many ways as possible.