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One for each night: Ideas to celebrate Hanukkah even as the coronavirus lurks

Pandemic-friendly activities to mark the eight-day festival of lights include daytime strolls, nighttime lights, crafts and of course — digital entertainment

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

The oversized, lit-up dreidels placed in Jaffa for Hanukkah 2020 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)
The oversized, lit-up dreidels placed in Jaffa for Hanukkah 2020 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)

Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah.

The Jewish winter festival is the latest holiday to fall victim to the coronavirus. In Israel, a potential nightly curfew had been set to begin Wednesday, the night before the start of the eight-day festival of lights, but now appears to be off the table.

Still, options for activities are limited. This would appear to be a year to focus on family flicks and latke fry-offs, but some daytime outings are possible too, assuming the rain holds off.

Luckily, many of the local arts and culture institutions hewed to COVID-19 limitations when planning Hanukkah events.

We’ve assembled the best of what’s out there, with activities and events around the country, and some no farther than your nearest screen.

Happy Hanukkah 2020.

Singer Rona Kenan will participate in this year’s online Piano Festival, during Hanukkah 2020 (Courtesy Asaf Eini)

1) The popular annual Piano Festival will be all-remote this year, screened on Kan 11, December 10-17.

The festival features well-known Israeli musicians in an intimate setting, often (but not always) on the piano. This year’s lineup includes Ivri Lider, Shalom Hanoch, Yoni Rechter, Miri Mesika, Shimon Buskila, Rona Kenan, Asaf Amdurski and others. The musicians will be filmed at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art without an audience and their performances will be available on Kan 11.

Some of the decorated trees at Jerusalem’s Botanical Gardens, part of its Winter Lights Festival held in December 2020 (Courtesy Sonia Franzel)

2) If the days are dry, head to Jerusalem’s Botanical Gardens for the Winter Lights event, a celebration of lights, nature and food at the expansive location in Givat Ram.

From December 12 through December 31, the gardens will feature a 700-meter trail with winter lighting projected on trees, shrubs and the lake at the center of the garden. There will also be a European-styled outdoor market selling roasted chestnuts, hot potatoes, French crepes, sausages, hot drinks and sufganiyot — Hanukkah donuts.

3) Up north, try some Hanukkah events in the Golan, where the local authorities have pooled their resources and talents.

Archaeological site Ein Keshatot near Natur, where findings date from the fifth to eighth century, has guided tours on December 15 and 17 of the menorah carvings found in the ancient synagogue at the site. Click on the Ein Keshatot link for booking and information.

Once you’ve examined the carvings, head to one of two nearby studios to make your own menorah from glass at Mandarina, a glass studio in Moshav Natur, or from wood and other materials at Lol Art in Moshav Ramot.

An ancient engraved menorah at the Ein Hakeshatot archaeological park in the Golan, part of the guided tours offered during Hanukkah 2020 (Courtesy Boris Belkin)

There are family-friendly late afternoon and early evening walks in Park Hayarden, including stories about the Maccabees and the battles fought in the area. Call 050-4040535 for booking and information.

In Merom Golan, visitors can try the Outdoor Nightgame, another early evening stroll with star gazing and Hanukkah stories. Sign up at the Outdoor Nightgame website.

4) Celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas in Tel Aviv by day and night.

The city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa is offering 60 guided and self-guided walking tours during December, emphasizing Hanukkah and Christmas, depending on the neighborhood you’re visiting.

There are street art tours in Florentin, a lantern tour in Park Hayarkon, fashion and shopping around the Bezalel market, menorahs in Neve Tzedek, churches in Jaffa, synagogues in Hatikvah and a film-focused walk in Jaffa. Find more information and special family prices at the Visit TLV site.

There will be daily candle-lighting ceremonies sponsored by Chabad at Rabin Square (6 p.m. weekdays, 3:45 p.m. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday night) and Habima Square (5 p.m. weekdays, 3:45 p.m. Friday, 8:30 p.m. Saturday night).

Christmas in Jaffa, 2019 (Courtesy Peter Vit)

Tel Aviv residents are invited to gather with their neighbors in the open spaces of their buildings to light candles, sing songs and spin dreidels using Hanukkah kits distributed by the municipality. In Jaffa, the city will distribute Christmas tree decorations to encourage neighborly relations at the southern end of the city.

5) Here are two online options to keep Minecraft and Fortnite at bay, at least for an hour or two:

The Tel Aviv Cinematheque is hosting a Kids’ Film Festival December 10-19, including a five-day screenwriting course for kids aged eight and up.

There are also screenings based on themes, including films based on books (“Paddington Bear and “The Little Prince”) that made it to the big screen as live action or animation and musical films. Most of the films are dubbed into Hebrew. Check the website for times and more information.

Or try one of the children’s plays staged by Tel Aviv’s Heichal Hatarbut and filmed for at-home watching, on December 14 and 15.

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