Chanukah in Israel: It’s Not ONLY About Food

sushi menorahChanukah is in the air, as all of Israel is preparing for the Festival of Lights. This year Chanukah begins on the evening of Nov 27, and ends on Thursday evening, Dec 5.

With us Jews, the first and most important subject is always (drumroll…) food, so let’s talk about Chanukah treats, which are traditionally prepared with oil, and lots of it! This practice of eating foods fried in oil commemorates the miracle that happened in the days of the Second Temple. After defeating the Greeks, the Jews found one precious flask of oil. Normally enough to keep the Temple’s menorah lit for just one night, this oil lasted eight! So, this time of year, sufganiyot (donuts) with an assortment of delicious fillings become ubiquitous throughout the country. One can also hear women throughout the land “hotly” debating the benefits of various recipes for levivot (latkas/potato pancakes).


Another tradition associated with the Festival of Lights is the kindling of a menorah (candelabra), known in Israel as a chanukiyah, on each night of Chanukah. Most Israelis display their lit chanukiyot in small glass cabinets stationed at the doors of their homes. As a matter of fact, some of the ancient homes in the Old City were built with a niche near the entryway, to accommodate a menorah.

There are also many exciting events and activities going on in Israel during this holiday. If you’re visiting Israel, here are a few you should definitely check out:

Old City Lights: Orot Ba’atikah

Aish Israel Presents… An En”LIGHT”ening Chanukah Experience!

Orot Ba'atikahParticipate in a meaningful program including a live show with the Kol Haneshama band featuring Chanukah songs and stories, and a beautiful explanation about the importance of light in Judaism. Watch entertaining theatrical vignettes, visually explore a large model of the Second Temple, and nosh on hot sufganiot and assorted drinks, as you revel in the breathtaking view of the Kotel and surrounding areas!

The program will be held on November 28, and again from December 1 through 4. Reservations required; 55 NIS (approx $15) entrance fee. To register or to read more about this exciting program, visit Orot Ba’atika or call 073-229-3539.

(By the way, this event is conducted in Hebrew, but much of the entertainment is enjoyable, no matter what your language.)

Public Menorah Lighting at the Western Wall

Kotel Chanuka (11)What could be more exciting than witnessing the kindling of a menorah not far from the site where the original seven-branch menorah was lit in the ancient Temple? And the best part is, even if you’re not lucky enough to be in Israel for Chanukah, you can still watch it from the comfort of your home, from anywhere in the world! To access the Kotel Cam with a live video feed from the areas where menorahs will be lit (the Prayer Plaza, opposite the Holy of Holies, and the Kotel Plaza overlooking the Western Wall), visit The Kotel Camera.

Here is a schedule of the various menorah lightings in the Kotel vicinity, at each of the three locations.

Wednesday, Nov 27 4:30pm
Thursday, Nov 28 4:30pm
Friday, Nov 29 3:30pm
Saturday night/Motza’ei Shabbat, Nov 30 6:30pm
Sunday, Dec 1, thru Wednesday, Dec 4 4:30pm

Don’t forget – the schedule is presented in local Jerusalem time, so if you are viewing it from another country, adjust the time accordingly.

Many Rabbis and dignitaries will be in attendance at the menorah lighting ceremonies throughout these days. They include: Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Rishon LeZion, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef; Rabbi Aharon Bina, Rosh Yeshiva, Netiv Aryeh; Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel; Rabbi Yehuda Deri, Chief Rabbi of Beer Sheva; Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, Chief Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek; Rishon LeZion Rabbi Shlomo Amar; Ashkenazik Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau; Mr. Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem; Mr. Oded Winer, General Director of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate; Mr. Gideon Sa’ar, Minister of Internal Affairs, and many more.

More Chanukah fun throughout Israel

donutsThe Chanukah fun is not limited to the Kotel. Throughout Israel, keep a keen eye out for the presence of Chabad shluchim (emissaries) who will be distributing 400,000 donuts (that’s about a bazillion points on Weight Watchers) and 250,000 menorahs and candles to the public. Thousands of public menorah lightings will be held in municipal centers, shopping malls, and offices throughout Israel. Also, watch the traffic go by and see if you can spot any of the 1400 cars which will proudly be displaying menorahs, all across the country!

And, of course, no description of Chanukah is complete without the Maccabees. Unfortunately, they are long gone, but their lesson of Jewish pride lives on. So, here’s to Jewish pride and Jewish identity, as depicted by renowned a cappella group, the Maccabeats!

If you know of an exciting Chanukah program in Israel that you would like to share, or had a special Chanukah experience in Israel, please let us know!

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2 Comments on Chanukah in Israel: It’s Not ONLY About Food

  1. Yad Lakashish is an amazing place in Jerusalem. You must call ahead to arrange a tour. It’s really uplifting to see how senior citizens are incorporated into society in such a meaningful way. They sell everything they make. Everything is beautiful. If you need more information, let me know. They have a web site. They are at 14 Shivtei in Jerusalem. Went twice in a week.

    • Esther Malka Jundef says:

      Yes, it is truly an amazing place to visit.

      We have groups of JWRP women visit, and their feedback is incredible.

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