Oh Hanukkah! So many ways to celebrate the festival of lights
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Oh Hanukkah! So many ways to celebrate the festival of lights

From candlelit menorah walking tours to interactive museum exhibits, there are more than enough activities to keep the kids busy over holiday break

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

From 'Different than Usual,' a new, interactive exhibit opening at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on December 24, 2016 (Courtesy TLV Museum of Art)
From 'Different than Usual,' a new, interactive exhibit opening at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on December 24, 2016 (Courtesy TLV Museum of Art)

With eight days of Hanukkah and seven days of school vacation, there’s a serious need to keep kids occupied and happy in between the massive intake of oil and sugar in daily doses of doughnuts and latkes.

Luckily, local museums and cultural venues are prepared for the holiday onslaught, with numerous performances, events and programs planned for families. Many of the events are even free.

Below are a list of options, ranging from candelighting ceremonies and candlelit menorah walking tours to new museum exhibits and film screenings. There are eco-tours, including one to save Ashdod’s sand dunes, a recycling effort at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, and do-it-yourself art at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

1) There are several options at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, but one that is particularly good for families is “Different Than Usual,” a hands-on exhibit of painting, collage and 3D that is created each day, starting December 24, by visitors to the museum. During the week of Hanukkah there are also plays and other activities for kids nearly every day. Check the museum website for more details.

2) The Children’s Museum in Holon has an exhibit on urban street art, with a host of activities and workshops to keep the kids busy, including drawing graffiti, playing a game of time travel trivia, and the always-fascinating Dialogue in the Dark, where blind guides lead visitors through dark spaces. Entrance fees are NIS 50 for kids and NIS 65 for adults. Call ahead at 03-650-3000 for reservations.

From 'Zbeng!' the comic created by Uri Fink (Courtesy Uri Fink)
From ‘Zbeng!’ the comic created by Uri Fink (Courtesy Uri Fink)

3) Haifa has some interesting museum events, including a comic workshop with artist Uri Fink at the Hermann Struck Museum on December 29. There is a course for ages 8+ from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., and one for teens and adults from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.; NIS 50 per person.

Over in the Haifa neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas, as part of the Holiday of Holidays festival, there’s Play Haifa, a set of installations created by artists at Beit HaGefen, the Arab-Jewish cultural center. The artworks, situated inside and outside the center’s buildings, are designed to spark dialogue between visitors and passersby.

4) Looking for something free and outdoors? Head towards the Nitzanim Sand Dune Park between Ashdod and Ashkelon on December 27 for a Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) environmental education tour. SPNI and the local Ashdod municipality are hosting tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Holot sand dune in Ashdod (Courtesy Shmuliko/CC-BY-SA-3.0)
The Holot sand dune in Ashdod (Courtesy Shmuliko/CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Keeping with the environment, on December 20 at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., there will be recycled arts and crafts, talks on composting, and even a ride on a recycling truck to understand how it all works.

5) Over in Lod, the Festival in the East takes place on December 25 and 26, with musical performances from Shimon Buskila and the sisters of A-Wa, a performance of piyyut (Jewish liturgical poems), street theater and dance, and some poetry slamming as well. Some events require tickets, so be sure to go to the Facebook page and ticket website for more information.

For more performances, there’s the Razel family singing together, as siblings Yonatan, Aaron and Ricka gather on Saturday night, December 31, at 8:30 p.m., at Jerusalem’s Gerard Behar Theater.

6) The artsy streets of downtown Jerusalem, around the pedestrian streets of Bezalel, Shmuel Hanagid, Shatz, King George and Hillel will become the location for street performances produced by alternative theater Hazira on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, December 27-29, from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.

Mili Avital (left) and Shani Cohen, in a photo for their new Keshet show, 'Landing on their Feet' (Courtesy Keshet)
Mili Avital (left) and Shani Cohen, in a photo for their new Keshet show, ‘Landing on their Feet’ (Courtesy Keshet)

7) Try out some alternative films at the first Female Directors’ Week at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, eight days of 50 new films by 50 Israeli female directors, from December 18-25. The films haven’t been screened yet, and they offer an alternative set of voices, from Jewish and Arabic, religious and secular, straight and LGBT, about relationships, experiences and matters of the heart. One of the screenings is an episode of “Landing on Their Feet,” a new comedy series for YES starring Mili Avital and Shani Cohen (“Eretz Nehederet”).

Lighting Hanukkah candles in Nachlaot (Keren Freeman/Flash 90)
Lighting Hanukkah candles in Nachlaot (Keren Freeman/Flash 90)

8) Candlelighting is an activity all in itself this season, and Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi has several Hanukkah-related tours this season, with candlelighting tours of the Jewish Quarter and Nachlaot, to see and learn about the customs of lighting Hanukkah menorahs (hanukkiyot, as they’re known in Hebrew). The Jewish Quarter tours are December 26 and 27, from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., NIS 35 per child, NIS 60 per adult. The Nachlaot tour is December 28, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., and includes candlelighting with local families, and costs NIS 50 per person. Register by calling 02-539-8855. Discounts available for those who register online at the Yad Yitzchak Ben Zvi website.

The walls of Jerusalem's Zion Square will shine with faces of regular folk and dignitaries from around the world who submit their hashtagged #Hanukkahjlm photos, from December 24 through January 1 (Courtesy Ziv Koren)
The walls of Jerusalem’s Zion Square will shine with faces of regular folk and dignitaries from around the world who submit their hashtagged #Hanukkahjlm photos, from December 24 through January 1 (Courtesy Ziv Koren)

Other Jerusalem candlelighting ceremonies will take place on the streets of the Mahane Yehuda market from December 26-28, at 5:30 p.m., with street artists, clowns and jugglers taking part in the fun.

"Careless Hearts" installation during the three-day Night Light Festival around the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station (courtesy Kfir Sivan/Tel Aviv Municipality)
“Careless Hearts” installation during the three-day Night Light Festival around the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station (courtesy Kfir Sivan/Tel Aviv Municipality)

9) Candlelighting ceremonies abound in Tel Aviv, with the menorah art installation at Tel Aviv’s northern port, an enormous candleabra made of clear pipes that will be lit each night of Hanukkah, at 5:30 pm.

The giant, illuminated hanukkiah at Tel Aviv's port in 2015 (Lior Mizrahi/Flash 90)
The giant, illuminated hanukkiah at Tel Aviv’s port in 2015 (Lior Mizrahi/Flash 90)

There’s also the Night Light Festival in the neighborhood of Neve Sha’anan, which was designed in the shape of a menorah back in 1923. This year, the multicultural neighborhood will recreate its original street menorah with light installations and projections, and celebrate with musical performances, food stalls marking the local culinary influences of the Filipino, Eritrean, Sudanese, Ethiopian and Chinese residents, tours of the local streets and block parties. December 22 and 24, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The 15-foot Christmas tree at Jaffa's clocktower square (Courtesy City of Tel Aviv-Jaffa)
The 15-foot Christmas tree at Jaffa’s clocktower square (Courtesy City of Tel Aviv-Jaffa)

10) In honor of the Festival of Lights, the historic Israel Electric building in Tel Aviv’s Gan Ha-hashmal (Electricity Garden) will be open on December 28 and 29, from 6 p.m. to midnight.

There’s also the Lights Market Festival at Givon Square in Tel Aviv, when the city hosts Nazareth’s famed Christmas market, with music, street performances and food stalls on December 27-29, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., at the juncture of Ha’arba’a Street and Hashmonaim streets.

Finally, head to Jaffa to view the lighting of the 15-meter-high Christmas tree at the clocktower. Crowds, and lights, abound.

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