Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the happiest celebrations in the Jewish calendar and has special meaning in Israel. This eight-day festival begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which usually falls in December.
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 164 B.C. after the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucids. The story, as told in the Book of Maccabees, tells of a miracle: although there was only enough consecrated oil to feed the menorah (the seven-branched lampstand in the Temple) for one day, the light burned for eight days until new oil could be consecrated. However, this story is not found in the Bible, but in the apocryphal books, which are not part of the canon of the Bible.
It is a festival that not only commemorates a historical miracle but also celebrates the Jewish people’s constant hope and unwavering pursuit of self-determination and peace.
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In Israel, Hanukkah is celebrated with great joy. A central custom is the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, a nine-branched candlestick. An additional candle is lit each evening of the festival until all the lights are lit on the eighth evening. This is usually done in a public space or at a window to spread the wonder of light.
Dishes and Celebrations
Traditional dishes such as sufganiyot (stuffed donuts) and latkes (potato pancakes) are at the heart of the dining experience. These dishes are fried in oil, reminiscent of the temple’s oil miracle.
In modern Israeli society, Hanukkah is also a celebration of family and community. There are public Hanukkah celebrations, concerts, and events. Children are often given gifts or money (Hanukkah gelt), and Hanukkah songs are sung, and games are played, including the well-known dreidel game.
Today, Hanukkah is a symbol of religious freedom and the resilience of the Jewish people. In Israel, a country that emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust and centuries of persecution, Hanukkah has deep symbolic meaning. It is a festival that not only commemorates a historical miracle but also celebrates the Jewish people’s constant hope and unwavering pursuit of self-determination and peace.
The children particularly look forward to the festival. It’s a whole week of vacation. During this week, there are many events where the children can do crafts, play, and, above all, eat lots of the delicious sufganiyot. When it’s cold and dark in December, the candles and being together make the atmosphere wonderfully pleasant.