Hanukkah is quickly approaching. Despite your best intentions, it can be tough to move beyond the basics of Hanukkah: frying latkes, candle-lighting, and choosing the best sufganiyot. Since you’re already taking some time off, December is a great time to check out new museum exhibits or take a drive to see what’s happening in the rest of the country. Here are some unique and fun activities that you should definitely check out.
The annual Hanukkah Torch Relay marks the beginning of the Hanukkah in Israel. During Hanukkah, we stand around the lights, watch as they glow, and sing together Maoz Tzur, a song that explains the many challenges that have risen against the Jewish people in the past. We celebrate the survival of our people and our faith against all the odds. In Israel, we rejoice by embracing a custom long associated with the Olympics. Runners proudly carry a burning torch Modiin to Jerusalem, a distance of about 20 miles (32 km), where the chief rabbi lights a giant menorah at the Western Wall. Together we celebrate by holding high the torch of freedom and bring light where there is darkness.
Jerusalem’s Old City and the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei-Brak show us why this holiday is called the Festival of Lights. People from all over the country, as well as tourists from abroad, take a self-guided tour in the evenings during the eight days of Hanukkah to view the hanukkiyot flickering on the window sills. If you can’t make it to Jerusalem (really recommend you try though), and you didn’t bring a menorah with you … just go outside around sundown to the nearest big hanukkiyah in your city, and join your neighbors for a local candle-lighting ceremony. You can find it on street corners, in central tourist spots and at landmarks in cities. Go ahead (be brave)! Try out singing Hanukkah songs and sharing public candle-lighting ceremony with local Israelis.
Why not head over to the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood in Tel Aviv for a two-night candle-lighting street party? On the bill: dozens of performances, light installations and projections, music shows and engaged-art in public and private spaces. There will also be a smorgasbord of food offerings from the Philippines, Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia and China – paying tribute to the people who today call this neighborhood home.
Hanukkah is also the festival of oil. So where better to start your visit than the Museum of Edible Oil Production in Haifa? If that’s not your cup of tea, you’re in a country overflowing with museums of every size and nature. Hanukkah is a great time to pack the family and go get cultured. Almost every museum offers special holiday activities for the whole family.
Exhibits dedicated to light take over the country’s museums during the Festival of Lights. There are too many to list but the cream of the crop include: Make Light annual exhibit at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem featuring games in light and shadow displays. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem workshops and excerpts from the international show “Aluminum” (a theater performance of dance and humor) are meant for kids of all ages.
Hanukkah themed workshops at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv include a treasure hunt for holiday candles hidden among the museum’s artworks. Also, space-themed Hanukkah activities at Technoda science museum in Hadera; Hanukkah-themed exhibits at the Israeli Children’s Museum; a Hanukkah challenge tour at the Tower of David Museum; and a week of Hanukkah culture and art activities at the Janco Dada Museum in Ein Hod.
Go ahead and submerse yourself in some seriously interesting museum fun.
Have you ever thought about hosting your own dreidel contest? Get your spinning fingers ready! It’s time to prove to all of your friends and families that you own that driedal. Create your own dreidel spinning contest, grab some tasty Hanukkah treats… say yes to that sufganiyah that has been calling out to you and celebrate the festival of lights.
Just a little fun fact— did you know why your dreidel features four Hebrew letters. In Israel, the letters are Nun, Gimel, Hay and Peh. The tradition of playing with dreidels is to remind us of when the ancient Greeks forbade Jews to learn Torah. Tradition holds that kids used to meet up in secret to learn, but if a Greek soldier approached they would pretend to be gambling with their dreidels.
Get a true feel for the Hanukkah festival and go back in time. The story of Hanukkah is recreated every year at the Hasmonean Village in Shilat. Here you actually get to have a unique and authentic feel for what it might have been like to live during the time of the Maccabees, pretty cool right! Harvesting olives, creating mosaics and making your own wax candles. If that’s not enough for you, take a trip to Ein Yael Oil Festival in Jerusalem, which also takes you back to ancient times and shows how to make olive oil the old-fashioned way.
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