With assimilation lurking around the corner and the ubiquitous “winter holiday” season, it’s too easy to lose sight of tradition. But in Israel, tradition is not only strong, but it’s also changing and updating itself every year. Hanukkah gifts are always a delight, but it’s also the traditions that people look forward to as well.
Are these fun Israeli traditions also active where you live? Do you have any local Hanukkah traditions?
Growing up in the US, most families have one or two menorahs at most. Or maybe a few… but a new trend is happening in Israel, and that’s the “many menorahs” trend. Houses are lighting up with all kinds of menorahs, from homemade bottle-tops to high-end ultra-modern works of art. These menorahs are in a window if possible, or if not, in a central place.
Fun Fact: In Israel, a menorah is not an uncommon wedding gift, as “you can’t have too many menorahs.”
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Visits to Jerusalem
Hanukkah is one of the most magical times of year to visit Jerusalem. And with a bit of time off work, many people find themselves unable to resist the fairy-tale atmosphere. Jerusalem is after all where the Hanukkah miracle is said to have happened. Another popular destination is the Maccabees’ tombs near Modi’in, where locals hold Hanukkah ceremonies.
Fun Fact: A menorah is on the city of Jerusalem’s official seal.
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There’s no time for a wedding like . . . Hanukkah? That’s right, particularly if you’re in Israel. If you’re getting married in the winter, Hanukkah is one of the most sought-after dates. A wedding is a perfect place to get together with friends, family, and loved ones to share in the joy of Hanukkah.
Did you know that Hanukkah made the list of Chabad’s “Extremely Auspicious” wedding dates?
Fun Fact: Most wedding halls in Israel keep large menorahs on hand just for Hanukkah weddings.
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Outside of Israel, menorah lighting ceremonies aren’t uncommon, but they’re certainly not widespread and organized like in Israel. Nearly all cities and even small towns or villages have a community menorah. The menorah usually stands near the entrance to the town and is cared for by the local synagogue. It helps residents remember how many candles to light!
The menorahs are also there so people out and about or working can participate in the Hanukkah candle lighting.
FunFact: In Israel, spontaneous crowds gather to enjoy the bright spectacle and dancing has been known to erupt at any tie.
Yes, that’s right, doughnuts. In America, it’s latkes; in Israel it’s doughnuts. Jelly-filled powered doughnuts to be exact. Though, in recent years, bakers have been experimenting with different flavors, dropper-filled flavor liquids and all kinds of decorations. They’re called sufganiyot and stores carry them during the Hanukkah season.
Funny thing you hear in Israel when the first jelly doughnuts make their appearance: “What? Sufganiyot already? Didn’t we just finish Sukkot?! Every year they’re coming out earlier and earlier…”