6 Fabulous Ideas for Experiencing Chanukah in Israel
There's something special about experiencing Chagim in Israel. Each Chag has its own special flavor and unique atmosphere and Chanuka is no different. There is a festive atmosphere in the air and a unique flavour... donut flavor! (or more accurately, sufganiyot) Donuts are literally everywhere! In the office, in every bakery and even in the gas station. But beyond donuts, there are lots of other ways of experiencing Chanuka and not all of them involving adding excessive amounts of calories.
We've lived in Israel for 24 years (that's 24 Chanukahs), so we have plenty experience finding fun things to do on Chanukah. Here are 6 of our favorites in no particular order...
1. Menorah Hunting
Do you know what the difference is between a Chanukiya and a Menorah? The number of branches! In the Bet Hamikdash, the Menorah had 6 branches plus a Shamash, while the chanukiya we light today has 8 branches plus a shamash. Visit the Menorah next to the Knesset, and if you can get a tour find the Menoras inside the Knesset as well. (https://m.knesset.gov.il/en/activity/pages/visit.aspx). There is also another golden Menora is on display in the Old City, to the left of the steps leading down to the Kotel.
2. Hasmonean Heritage Museum and Ancient Beit Knesset in Modiin
This new museum tells the history of Modiin from the time of the Hasmoneans until today, and is open during Chanuka with special Chanuka activities. https://modiinmuseum.org.il/english. The oldest known Beit Knesset from the times of the Chashmonaim is also known as Umm al-Umdan and is located at the corner of Shivtai Israel St and Sderot Hachashmonaim. The site includes remains of a town, graves, a bathhouse, and a synagogue from the second century BCE. Also in the general area of Modiin – Maccabim graves.
For some reason, any type of archaeology, especially caves reminds us of Chanuka. Our pick: Beit Guvrin caves, among them impressive cisterns, olive presses, columbarium caves, and burial caves of the Phoenicians who lived in the city, in which rare wall paintings have been restored. Make sure to reserve a date/time to avoid disappointment when you arrive. https://en.parks.org.il/reserve-park/bet-guvrin-national-park/
4. Israel Museum - Cycle of the Jewish Year Collection
Among other gorgeous Judaica, see the large collection of Chanukiyot from throughout the ages and the world, including Europe, the Americas and the Middle East. Another part of the collection that has always fascinated us is the shuls that have been brought over and reconstructed exactly as they were. https://www.imj.org.il/en
Who doesn’t love a good donut? Not comparable to Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kremes, these freshly fried delicacies (sometimes baked) can be found everywhere during Chanuka. From the basic powdered cover filled with jelly (jam for the Brits) or ribat chalav (caramel), to fancy shmancy expensive. Try ‘em all!!
6. Chanukiya viewing
Experience Chanuka in the Old City of Jerusalem, Meah Shearim or in Tzfat after sunset any night of Chanuka. Count how many chanukiyot you see on windowsills inside and outside the houses, in boxes outside the gates and everywhere else. An “only in Israel” experience.
Happy Chanuka from "Pack for Israel"
We hope you enjoyed these suggestions for enriching your Chanukah in Israel. At Pack for Israel we provide everything you need for your gap year in Israel. You can order bedding and towels, small appliances, toiletries, storage accessories, and more that will ship directly to your school in Israel.