Categories
Festivals & holidays

5 Ways to Celebrate Sukkot in Israel

Sukkot is a weeklong Jewish holiday that celebrates the gathering of the harvest. But most importantly, it reminds us of the Exodus from Egypt. During the Exodus, GOD took care of the Israelites and provided them shelter while walking in the desert. In the Bible, it clearly says: “You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 23:42) According to some commentators, those booths were temporary dwellings with a roof made of unprocessed natural vegetation. That is why we dwell in those booths every sukkot.

If you’re planning to visit Israel on Sukkot, I’ve gathered 5 ways to celebrate Sukkot in Israel. Just keep in mind that public transportation does not operate during the first two days of the holiday.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, at no extra cost to you. These links help me keep the website alive, so thank you!

Table of Contents:

When is Sukkot celebrated?

This year (2021), Sukkot will begin at sundown on 20 September and end at nightfall on 27 September. Every year, the date is slightly different. That’s because we celebrate our holidays according to the Hebrew calendar, which is different from the widely used Gregorian calendar. Sukkot begins every year on the 15th day of the seventh Hebrew month, Tishrei. Usually, this day falls in October.

5 ways to celebrate Sukkot in Israel:

Visit a Four Species Market:

The Four Species are four plants used during Sukkot – an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm branch), a hadas (myrtle twig), and an arava (willow twig). A few days before Sukkot, people come to the Four Species Market to get the finest Four Species for the holiday. There are several markets all around Israel. In Jerusalem, you can find a large market in the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, near Shabbat Square (Kikar HaShabbat) or near Machane Yehuda Market. Outside Jerusalem, there’s a huge Four Species market in Bnei Brak, the largest Ultra-Orthodox city in Israel. 

The Four Species represent the different people of the Jewish nation:

  • The etrog has both smell and taste, so it represents Jews who study the Torah and have good deeds.
  • The lulav has taste but no smell, so it represents Jews who study the Torah but do not do good deeds.
  • The hadas has smell but no taste, so it represents Jews who have good deeds but do not study the Torah.
  • The arava doesn’t have taste nor smell, so it represents Jews with no good deeds and no Torah.

Religious people will tie the Four Species together and wave them in a special ceremony on each day of the holiday, not including Shabbat. They do this because it is written in the Torah. It shows that even though not all of us are the same, we are still united. If you want to see the ceremony during Sukkot, go to a nearby synagogue in the morning. If you’re in Jerusalem, you can also go to the Western Wall. 

The Four Species. Pic by Kikar HaShabbat, from Wikipedia

Spend time in a sukkah:

The sukkah is the booth in which GOD ordered the Israelites to live in for seven days. In the plural, a sukkah is called “sukkot,” hence the name of the holiday. The religious people make sure to eat all their meals in the sukkah, and some even sleep in it.

When in Israel, you’ll see the sukkot everywhere – on the street, next to restaurants, in people’s porches. People start building the sukkot right after Rosh Hashanah, so you will notice them a few days before the holiday.

Another important part of Sukkot is the Ushpizin, the guests. It is a mitzvah, a divine commandment, to host as many guests as possible in your sukkah because true joy is only shared joy, and it’s important to be joyful during the holiday. Many people host the needy and the lonely. But even if you’re not needy or lonely, you can find a sukkah that will welcome you. As I said, there are sukkot everywhere. If you see an open sukkah, you can glance inside or even stay a bit to experience the holiday spirit. Find all the open sukkahs on opensukkah.com.

In this opportunity, I also want to recommend a great movie, “Ushpizin”. It talks about an Ultra-Orthodox couple who celebrate Sukkot and accidently host two escaped convicts as their Ushpizin. I’ve watched it twice already and love it! You can rent “Ushpizin” on Amazon.

Here is a video of a sukkah building by the IDF:

Visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem:

Sukkot is one of the three Pilgrimage Festivals together with Passover and Shavuot. During these festivals, the Jewish people used to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Holy Temple doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still visit the Western Wall, the last remnant of the temple complex. Thousands of people visit the Western Wall during this time of year.

The Western Wall is open 24/7. There’s security at the entrance, and then you can come near the wall. At the central part of the Western Wall, women and men have separate areas of prayer. If you want to pray next to the opposite sex, you can do so in the smaller prayer area, south of the central one, called Ezrat Yisrael. The entrance is before the security, to the right.

To respect the holy place, please come in modest clothes, cover your shoulders and legs.

The Western Wall

Go hiking on the Israel National Trail:

As I said, Sukkot is meant to remind us of the Exodus. When the Israelites left Egypt, they walked for 40 years through the desert until they finally entered the Promised Land. Well, 40 years is a long time, so instead, you can hike for several days on the Israel National Trail. This way, you can experience a bit of what the Israelites felt when they went from one place to another. Also, you can take a tent, and camp along the way, which is kind of like staying in a temporary dwelling, isn’t it?

Late September is usually the start of the fall hiking season, but the weather might still be hot during Sukkot, so make sure to check the forecast before the hike. The Israel National Trail usually takes about two months to complete, but you don’t have to hike all of it in one go. Seven days could definitely be efficient. Learn more about the Israel National Trail in my ultimate preparation guide.      

One of the most beautiful sunrises on the Israel National Trail

Go camping for a few days:

If you don’t like hiking but still want to stay in a tent, you can camp in one of Israel’s many campgrounds. Many of them are free of charge but don’t have any facilities. If you want toilets, electricity, and other facilities, it might be worth paying a bit to stay in an organized campground. There are even some good campgrounds in the Israeli desert! Then, you can camp for a few days, cook outdoors, and try to imagine how the Israelites felt when they dwelled in temporary booths in the desert. Learn more by reading my post – Camping in Israel: The Basics.

Final thoughts:

Sukkot is one of the longest Jewish holidays. That’s why it’s a great time to hang out with family, friends, or strangers you meet during your travels. Whether you choose to learn more about the traditions of the holiday or explore the Israeli wildlife, I’m sure you’re going to have an awesome time! Happy Sukkot!

Want to learn more about holidays in Israel?

Read my post – Holidays in Israel and How to Spend Them During Travel.

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If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning your trip to Israel, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Festivals & holidays Fun facts & enrichment

5 Ways to Celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Israel

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish Year. According to Jewish tradition, it is the day GOD created Adam and Eve. It is also the day GOD determines the fate of every one of us for the upcoming year. Will we become rich? Will we stay strong and healthy? Or is our fate doomed to poverty and illness? But luckily, GOD seals our fate only ten days later, on Yom Kippur. So, we have time to think about what we have done. If we’ve done something wrong, we can promise to behave better. Then, GOD might change his mind and give us a second chance.

If you’re planning to visit Israel on Rosh Hashanah, I’ve gathered 5 ways to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Israel. Just keep in mind that public transportation does not operate during the holiday, which lasts two days. Also, most shops and places are closed.

Table of contents:

  1. When is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?
  2. 5 ways to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Israel
    1. Hear the blowing of the shofar
    1. Drink freshly squeezed pomegranate juice
    1. Taste Israeli honey
    1. Go to a beach to watch the Tashlich
    1. Go look for Urginea Maritima
  3. Final tip

When is Rosh Hashanah celebrated?

This year (2021), Rosh Hashanah will begin at sundown on September 6 and end at nightfall on September 8. Every year, the date is slightly different. That’s because we celebrate our holidays according to the Hebrew calendar, which is different from the widely used Gregorian calendar. The first day of the Hebrew year is the 1st of Tishrei. Usually, this day falls either in September or October.

5 ways to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Israel:

Hear the blowing of the shofar:

In the Bible, Rosh Hashanah is called “the day of blasting.” That’s why Jews are obligated to hear the blowing – or blasting – of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. A shofar is a horn of a kosher animal, usually a ram, used as a trumpet on special occasions.

At the start of the COVID pandemic, many people couldn’t leave their houses because of quarantine. We were at home too at that time. Then, I remember hearing someone shouting from the street: “Who needs to hear the shofar? Who here is in quarantine?” Some people shouted back at him: “Here, here.” And then he blasted the shofar a few times. So, you see, hearing the shofar blowing is very important in Judaism.

The Bible doesn’t tell us why we need to hear the blasting of the shofar. But some people have tried to explain. Some say that the blast is meant to awaken our souls, to stir the heart. This way, we’ll be able to think better about what we’ve done and what we would like to do from now on. Others say it is meant to humble us and fill us with awe before GOD.

If you want to hear the shofar blast as well, look for a nearby synagogue and go early in the morning. Usually, the shofar is blown during the morning service, after reading part of the Torah, the five first books of the Bible. But you might be able to hear it throughout the day, too. If the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, the shofar will not be blown on that day. Instead, it will be blown on Sunday.

A Jewish man blowing a shofar. Pic taken from the Matson Collection

Drink freshly squeezed pomegranate juice:

Almost every Jewish holiday is connected to some traditional food. On Rosh Hashanah, one of the most popular food items is the pomegranate. A few days or even weeks before Rosh Hashanah, you’ll see pomegranates all over the marketplaces. Ask the vendors if they can make freshly squeezed pomegranate juice for you. Those who like pomegranates love it!

The pomegranates are known as one of the “seven species of the Land of Israel.” In Jewish tradition, it symbolizes righteousness, wisdom, and knowledge. One blessing that many bless during Rosh Hashanah is: “May we be full of merits like the pomegranate.” That’s because the pomegranate is FULL of seeds. It is said to have 613 seeds, like the number of 613 commandments of the Torah. So, don’t miss the opportunity to get these merits ;-).

Keep in mind that most markets will be closed during Rosh Hashanah itself. So, try getting that cup of pomegranate juice right before or right after the holiday.  

A fresh pomegranate

Taste Israeli honey:

Another thing we love to eat on Rosh Hashanah is an apple in honey. We slice a red apple, dip it in honey, and say: “May we have a sweet year ahead.” One of the main reasons we eat the apple is because of its sweetness. Together with the sweetness of the honey, we hope for an ultra-sweet year ahead. But instead of sending you to apple orchards, I want to recommend a visit to an apiary, where bees and people make honey.

There are many apiaries all over Israel, from the north to the south. Some of them offer special tours just before Rosh Hashanah as part of the holiday spirit. But even if they don’t, I recommend visiting their store, tasting, and purchasing some Israeli-made honey. There are many types to taste, including classic wildflower honey, avocado honey, carob honey, and more.

I’ve been to Meshek Ofir near Alon HaGalil in Lower Galilee and really enjoyed the honey-tasting there. But one of the most popular honey brands in Israel is Yad Mordechai. You’ll find its honey almost in every supermarket. You can also visit its visitor center in kibbutz Yad Mordechai near Ashkelon. But if you want to taste honey in a truly surreal place, head to the desert landscape of the Arava and visit Porat Farm in Ein Yahav. No matter where you choose to go, it’ll be a great start for the Jewish year!  

Mmmm… honey!

Go to a beach to watch the Tashlich:

Tashlich is one of the main customs of Rosh Hashanah. It means “throw away.” On the first afternoon of the holiday, people go to a body of water and perform this special ceremony. It could be any body of water – a river, a pond, an ocean, and so on. If you want to witness this ceremony, the best place you can go is the sea. I can’t guarantee you’ll see it, but it’s certainly possible. If you’re in a city, people might also be performing the Tashlich next to one of the city’s fountains. So, you can check over there, too.

During the ceremony, people symbolically cast their sins into the water, evoking the verse: “And You shall cast their sins into the depths of the sea.” They first say the prayer. Then, they shake their pockets or the hem of their clothes above the water and empty their sins. If there are fish in the area, they might also throw some crumbs into the water because fish are a sign of blessing.  

If Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, the Tashlich will be done on Sunday. 

“Jews Performing Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah” by Aleksander Gierymski

Go look for Urginea Maritima:

Many Jewish holidays are connected to a specific season. Rosh Hashanah is one of the holidays that mark the beginning of the fall. Another thing that marks the beginning of the fall is the Urginea Maritima, a common plant in Israel. The plant starts blooming at the end of summer. In Naomi Shemer’s famous song, “On Rosh Hashanah,” she wrote: “On Rosh Hashanah, a Urginea Maritima turns on in the field like a memorial candle.” Believe me, it sounds much better in Hebrew!

If you like nature, there’s plenty of it in Israel. Rent a car and go look for Urginea Maritima. They should already be blooming at this time of the year. Here are some places that have a large concentration of Urginea Maritima:

  • Tel Yodfat in the Lower Galilee. This site is also worth visiting because it was the site of one of the first battles during the First Jewish-Roman War.
  • The Bible Hill in Jerusalem. If you’re already in Jerusalem and don’t want to wander too far, you can find a bit of nature near the First Station. There’s a short but steep climb from David Remez Street in front of the First Station. You can also enjoy a nice view of the surroundings from up there.
  • Horvat Karta near Atlit. There’s a short trail that goes up to a hill overlooking the Coastal Plain. At the top, there are many Urginea Maritima and also ruins of a Crusader-era fortress.

Here you can see a nice video of the Urginea Maritima plants at Tel Yodfat, taken by Yermi Ben Tzvi:

Final tip:

Rosh Hashanah is a wonderful holiday that fuels us with new energy for the upcoming year. Besides the 5 ways mentioned, try to join a local family for their Rosh Hashanah seder. It might be difficult to find, but if you happen to stumble upon a local feast, it’s the best way to experience the holiday. This is how my Rosh Hashanah usually looks like.

Have a nice holiday in Israel!

Want to learn more about holidays in Israel?

Read my post – Holidays in Israel and How to Spend Them During Travel.

Save this post for later!


If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning your trip to Israel, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Festivals & holidays Haifa Jerusalem Trip Planning Tips

Christmas in Israel: The Top Places to Celebrate

We are getting closer and closer to Christmas, which will be celebrated like every year on the 25th of December. If you’re planning to be in Israel this Christmas, here are the top places to celebrate Christmas and what you can do in each:


Notice: This year we’re celebrating Christmas during the COVID-19 pandemic, so many events are limited to a small number of people and some have been cancelled. Make sure to check if the event you’re interested in is still happening.


Christmas in Nazareth:

Nazareth is where Jesus spent his childhood and is a special place to visit during December and on Christmas eve. The whole Old City of Nazareth is decorated with Christmas decorations, and the main Christmas tree stands tall at Mary’s Well Square, next to the Greek Orthodox St. Gabriel Church. The Christmas tree is usually lit on 6 December, but depends on weather conditions.

Aside from wandering around the beautiful decorations, here are some more things you can do in Nazareth:

  • Go to the Christmas Market – If you love Christmas markets, you’ll probably love this colorful one at Mary’s Well Square. The market is usually filled with people and market stalls, which sell various arts and crafts and local products. Most of the action starts in the evening, so make sure to go there after dark. The market usually takes place between 17-22 December, but dates might change. This year (2019) there’s going to be the Christmas Nights Nazareth event, which will take place between 1-7 December and will be more or less like the traditional Christmas Market.

Watch this video by Israel to get a glimpse of the Christmas Market:

  • Watch the Christmas Parade – This annual parade takes place on the 24th of December and starts at 3 PM from Mary’s Well Square. The festive parade walks along Paul VI Street, which is the main street of Nazareth. It’s recommended to get there early so you will be able to watch. 

  • Take part in the Christmas mass at the Church of the Annunciation – The highlight of the Christmas events in Nazareth is the Midnight Mass, which starts at 7 PM on 24th December in the Basilica of the Annunciation. It is believed that this was where Virgin Mary was announced she was bearing the son of God, Jesus.

How to reach Nazareth?

Coming from Tel Aviv – There are frequent buses going from Tel Aviv Central Station to Nazareth (bus number 826). The buses start as early as 7 AM and continue until midnight. It costs about 34 ILS.

Coming from Jerusalem – You can use Egged bus number 955, which leaves from Jerusalem Central Station to Nazareth Central Station. It costs about 37 ILS. The problem is it leaves only twice a day, in the afternoon and in the evening. Another option is to join the Abraham Hostel Shuttle, which leaves from Jerusalem to Nazareth on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 9:15. It’s a bit pricey, 60 ILS pp, but at least you can get to Nazareth early. More details about Abraham Tours’ shuttle here.

Christmas in Jerusalem:

If you can’t make it to Nazareth, you will most probably be able to make it to Jerusalem and the celebration is great over there as well. Jesus visited Jerusalem many times throughout his life, and ascended to the Heavens from the top of Mount of Olives, which stands to the east of the Old City. The Christian Quarter of Jerusalem will be lit with enchanting Christmas decorations and you will be able to find some beautiful Christmas trees throughout the city. The Christmas tree I love most is the one standing in front of the YMCA Hotel every year.

Besides walking through the enchanting alleyways of the Old City and admiring the decorations, here are some top things you can do while in Jerusalem:

  • Meet Jerusalem’s Santa – In one of the hidden alleyways of the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem lies the house of Jerusalem’s Santa Claus. If you’re coming with kids or want a pic of yourselves with Santa of the Holy Land, you might want to visit his house. For more info, check out the official page of Jerusalem Santa on Facebook.

  • Attend YMCA’s Christmas Market – This traditional Christmas Market takes place each year in heated tents in front of the YMCA Hotel and in the YMCA historical basketball court. Walk through the different stands to find hundreds of Christmas products and handmade arts and crafts, as well as some snacks. There are also wonderful bell concerts throughout the day. The market takes place between 6-8 December from 11AM to 10PM.

Watch this video by i24NEWS English to get a glimpse of the YMCA Christmas Market:

  • Join the Christmas carols in the Christ Church – Opposite the entrance to Tower of David Museum stands the Christ Church, the first protestant church built in the Middle East. Every Christmas eve, on 24 December, the hold Christmas carols between 5 PM to 10 PM.

If you would like to take part in a ritual ceremony in Jerusalem, check out the Catholic Christmas events in Jerusalem through the CIC website.

How to reach Jerusalem?

Jerusalem is well connected. There are frequent buses from the main cities of Israel. There’s also the new train station at Yitzhak Navon, just in front of the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem.  

Christmas in Bethlehem:

I’ve put Bethlehem after Nazareth and Jerusalem because you would have to pass a border to enter it, as Bethlehem is under the Palestinian authority. But Bethlehem is THE place to visit on Christmas. Afterall, according to the New Testament, Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  

The beautiful Christmas tree, which stands at Manger Square, will be lit this year (2019) on 30 November starting from 6PM.

If you would like to take part in the Advent and Christmas masses in Bethlehem, check out the full Christmas program in the CIC website. If you would like to try your luck in participating in the Bethlehem Midnight Mass, you can try applicating online.

Watch this video by i24NEWS English to get a glimpse of Christmas in Bethlehem:

If the Israeli Ministry of Tourism will do as in previous years, there will be free shuttles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem from noon on Christmas eve until noon on Christmas Day. In previous years, the shuttle service left every round hour from the bus stop near Carta Parking Lot, which is opposite Jaffa Gate, near Mamilla Boulevard.

You can also join Abraham Tours’ Bethlehem Christmas Eve Tour to visit the holy sites of Bethlehem and experience the Christmas vibes with travelers from all around the world.

Christmas in Haifa:

Another cool place to visit on Christmas is Haifa, which is known as a city of diverse religions and cultures. Haifa is also known as a city of co-existence and is very proud of it. That’s why one of the largest and most festive events in Haifa is the Holiday of Holidays, which will take place this year (2019) between 19-28 December. This festival is meant to celebrate the holidays of the three main religions in Haifa – Judaism, Christianity and Islam, so you’ll have a chance to celebrate not only Christmas, but also the Jewish Hannukah (celebrated on 22-30 December this year) and the Muslim Ramadan (which isn’t really celebrated on December this year).

The streets of Downtown Haifa are lit with beautiful holiday decorations, there are plenty of street performances and of course, there’s also fabulous food, which is always typical of the Arab neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas in Haifa.

Watch this video by Israel to get a glimpse of the Holiday of Holidays:

How to reach Haifa?

From Tel Aviv – There are frequent buses from Tel Aviv Central Station to Haifa. You can take bus number 921 from Tel Aviv to Haifa Merkazit Khof Ha-Karmel Station. It costs about 27 ILS.

From Jerusalem – There are frequent buses from Jerusalem Central Station a well. You can take bus number 947 or 940 to Haifa Merkazit Khof Ha-Karmel Station. It costs about 37 ILS.


There’s still a month till Christmas, so I’ll be updating the post if I hear of any other cool events for Christmas. Do you know of anything that should be added? Feel free to let me know at lior@backpackisrael.com.

Think this post is useful or helpful? I would really appreciate a like, a share or a comment 😊

Also, check out my Facebook page for frequent updates – Backpack Israel.

Want help with planning your trip to Israel? Check out my new app, Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iPhone. You’re also welcome to contact me through the Experts tab in the app.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Festivals & holidays Trip Planning Tips

Top Annual Events in Israel – July to December

Israel is a very festive country, full of festivals, events and holidays all year round. In this post I want to tell you about the top annual festivals and events in Israel from July to December (I’ve also written about the top annual festivals and events in Israel from January to June). Even if you aren’t planning to take part in the events, I do recommend you check what events are going on during your dates of travel, so you will be prepared for the crowds or changes in traffic. Some events are very popular, so you might want to book accommodation a while in advance.

And do read – Holidays in Israel and How to Spend Them During Travel.

Top July Events in Israel:

Jerusalem Light Festival: In this fabulous festival the alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem will be lit with fantastic light shows. It is a great opportunity to take a walk in the Old City after dark, when the temperatures are also much nicer. The festival is free of charge.

When? June 26 – July 4, 2019.

Where? Jerusalem Old City.

Official Website: Jerusalem Light Festival.

Jerusalem Film Festival: If you want to get familiar with some Israeli films, you might find this film festival interesting. You need to get tickets in advance. You can check about the tickets through this email: contact@jer-cin.org.il.

When? July 25 – August 4, 2019.

Where? In Cinematheque Jerusalem, 11 Hebron Road.

Official Website: Jerusalem Film Festival

Top August Events in Israel:

Safed Klezmer Festival: Come enjoy the Klezmer performances that take place in the alleyways and lanes of the Old Jewish Quarter and the Artists Quarter of Safed. There are three nights of performances, which begin approximately 9 PM and continue until after midnight. All performances are free.

Where? Safed Old Jewish Quarter and Artists Quarter.

When? August 12-14, 2019.

Official Website: Safed Klezmer Festival

Akko Zimriya – International Choir Festival: If you happen to be in Akko at the end of August and want to take part in a magical musical event, try getting tickets to this international choir festival, which takes place in the ancient buildings of the Hospitaller Fortress of Old Akko, a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Where? The Hospitaller Fortress in Old Akko.

When? August18-21, 2019.

Official Website: Akko Zimriya .

Red Sea Jazz Festival: The sunny city of Eilat welcomes the Red Sea Jazz Festival, a 3-days events including concerts from Israel and abroad as well as jam sessions into the night. The performances require tickets.

Where? Eilat Port, Dock No. 9.

When? August 25-27, 2019.

Official Website: Red Sea Jazz Festival.

The National Arts and Crafts Festival: One of the greatest cultural events in Israel takes place in Jerusalem every summer. The festival includes arts and crafts stands, activities and live performances during the night. To watch one of the live performances, you need to purchase tickets online. To enter the fair, you can purchase tickets at the festival’s ticket booths.

Where? In Khutsot Hayotser, Jerusalem. 

When? August 12-24, 2019.

Official Website: The National Arts and Crafts Festival.

Opera in the Park Tel Aviv: The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality and the Israeli Opera joined together to make this FREE event. An opera performance is shown in on of Tel Aviv’s public parks, Ganei Yehoshua Park. 

Where? Ganei Yehoshua Park.

When? Dates for this year not confirmed yet, but seems like it will be around August 9, 2019 between 8:30PM and 11:30PM.

Jerusalem Beer Festival: If you love beer, you might want to come and enjoy the many types of beer exhibited in this festival.

Where? In Jerusalem.

When? Dates for this year not available yet.

Official Website: Jerusalem Beer Festival.

Top September Events in Israel:

Mekudeshet Multidisciplinary Arts Festival: A 3-week unique festival based in Jerusalem, that focuses on the challenges and people of Jerusalem. Most events cost between 120 to 180 ILS, but seem very interesting and worth the price!

Where? In Jerusalem.

When? 4-21 September, 2019.

Official Website: Mekudeshet.

Sea of Galilee Crossing: The largest popular swimming event in Israel, which takes place in the Sea of Galilee. You can register as a single person or as a whole family and swim through the Sea of Galilee.

Where? In the Sea of Galilee.

When? Dates for this year not available yet.

Official Website: Sea of Galilee Crossing.

Top October Events in Israel:

Haifa International Film Festival: One of the top festivals in Israel for film lovers and media professionals. During this week of festival, dozens of new films from different categories are screened. It is required to get tickets in advance.

Where? In Haifa.

When? 12-21 October, 2019.

Official Website: Haifa International Film Festival.

Tamar Music Festival: A beautiful music celebration in the backdrop of the majestic Judean Desert. The festival includes special sunrise concerts at Masada and free concerts at Kibbutz Ein Gedi and Sdom Square.

Where? In Masada and the area.

When? 15-18 October, 2019.

Official Website: Tamar Music Festival.

Jerusalem March: The Jerusalem March, also called the Feast of Tabernacles, is an annual event of solidarity with Israel, which includes marching through the streets of Jerusalem together with many supporters from around the world. The march begins at 2PM from Sacher Park.

Where? In Jerusalem.

When? 17 October, 2019.

Official Website: Jerusalem March.

Cycle Tel Aviv: This cycling event, which is the biggest of its kind in Israel, includes four different cycling routes to choose from around Tel Aviv. October is usually a perfect time for cycling thanks to the great weather, so if you like to cycle, check it out. It will cost you around 70-90 ILS to register.

Where? In Tel Aviv.

When? 18 October, 2019.

Official Website: Cycle Tel Aviv.

IndNegev Music Festival: This is a huge three-day live music event, which includes over 100 live shows and camping in the Israeli desert. It’s called IndNegev because there are a lot of Indie bands, but there are also many other genres.

Where? Mitzpe Gvulot in the Negev.

When? 24-26 October, 2019.

Official Website: IndNegev Music Festival.

Tel Aviv Night Run: Come participate in one of the biggest sports events in Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps. Or if you don’t like to run, you can always come and cheer the thousands of runners.  There is a registration fee for runners.

Where? In Tel Aviv.

When? 30 October, 2019.

Official Website: Tel Aviv Night Run.

Top November Events in Israel:

Open Restaurants in Jerusalem: A wonderful festival for culinary lovers! During the Open Restaurants events, you will be able to take part in many special workshops in some of Jerusalem’s finest restaurants, as well as many other activities which will connect you with the Israeli cuisine. Make sure to check that the activity is also in English before signing up, as many of the activities are in Hebrew.

Where? In Jerusalem.

When? 19-23 November, 2019.

Official Website: Open Restaurants in Jerusalem.

Eilat Desert Marathon: An amazing sports event, this marathon begins in the desert and ends at the shore of the Red Sea in Eilat. This is the only marathon event in Israel that combines desert views with sea views. If you want to experience a marathon like no other, register and join the fun.

Where? In the Negev Desert around Eilat.

When? 29 November, 2019.

Official Website: Eilat Desert Marathon.

Hula Valley Bird Festival: Every year, thousands of birds migrate through Israel to Africa or to Europe and Asia. On this week long event you can experience Israel’s fall migration in the Hula Valley, one of the most important places on the route of the migrating birds. The festival offers excellent packages for a week long birding program, but even if you aren’t planning to spend the whole week in the valley, you should definately come here to see the wonderful migration during this time of year.  

Where? Hula Valley.

When? Dates for this year are not set yet. It usually takes place on the last week of November.

Top December Events in Israel:

Haifa “Holiday of the Holidays”: This unique event takes place in the northern city of Haifa, which is known for its great religious and cultural diversity. During the festival, the Jewish, Christian and Muslim residents of Haifa celebrate together Channukah, Christmas and the Ramadan. Channukah and Christmas are celebrated in December and the Ramadan sometimes falls on December as well. The festival includes interesting exhibitions, shows, tours and conferences.

Where? In downtown Haifa.

When? Throughout December.


Have a festive time in Israel!

If you liked this post or found it useful, I’d really appreciate a like, share or comment from you (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And be in touch if you’re looking for a tour guide in Israel.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Festivals & holidays

5 Ways to Celebrate Purim in Israel

Purim is one of the most colorful and happy holidays on the Hebrew calendar, commemorating the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews of the Persian empire according to the Book of Esther. It is celebrated every year during March, on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, the day following the victory of the Jews over the evil Haman. In cities that were protected by a wall during the time of Joshua, like Jerusalem, the holiday is celebrated on the 15th of Adar and known as Shushan Purim.

Today Purim is celebrated not only on those specific days, but throughout the whole week. The peak of the events this year will take place on the 20-22 of March 2019. If you’re not sure how to have fun this Purim, here are 5 ways to celebrate Purim in Israel:

Watch this video by Israel, that shows you a bit of the Purim spirit:

1- Attend a Purim Carnival

Purim is one of the most festive and happy holidays in Israel. Streets are filled with colorful decorations and costumes and cheerful music. One of the highlights of Purim is the Adloyada, the traditional parade that usually begins in the late morning – early afternoon and consists of dozens of people wearing costumes. “Adloyada” in Hebrew means “Until one no longer knows”. This is connected to what is said in the Talmud, that during Purim you must drink until you do not know the difference between “blessed be Mordecai” and “cursed be Haman”. In the Adloyada there isn’t much drinking, but I’ll write about drinking later.

Besides watching the Adloyada, you can watch colorful and vivid street performances that take place all around Israel.

2- Put on a Costume

Weeks before Purim, you’ll be seeing a wide range of costumes in the stores. People – children and adults alike – will be busy thinking about what they will be during the holiday – A princess? A butterfly? A superhero? Or maybe one of today’s celebrities? People love to dress up in Purim, and it is one of the holiday’s greatest traditions.

You can also buy or make yourself a costume and join the fun! There are many costume parties going on during Purim, which you can attend. Abraham Hostel Jerusalem, for instance, holds a Purim party every year, that also includes a costume competition with prices. You can book your tickets to the event here.

Why do we dress up during Purim? There are many possible reasons. Some say that the Book of Esther, which Jewish people read during Purim, is full of transfigurations. For example, Hadassah changes her name to Esther to hide the fact that she is Jewish, as Haman, the king’s chief advisor, wants to kill all the Jews in the Persian kingdom. Also, in Purim there is a mitzvah (precept) to give charity to the poor and the highest level of charity is to give a “secret charity”, so that the poor do not know who gave them the charity and the givers do not know to whom they gave the charity. That is why we dress up on Purim – so no one will recognize us when we do good deeds.

3- Taste Some “Haman Ears”

The “Haman Ears” (“Oznei Haman” in Hebrew and “hamantash” in English) are the traditional cookies of Purim. They are triangular shaped, meant to represent the ears of Haman, the villain in the Purim story, and are filled with all kinds of fillings, while the most traditional filling are poppy seed, dates, and chocolate. Every bakery that respects itself has “Haman Ears” weeks ahead of Purim and during the holiday itself, so make sure to taste a bit of this delicious cookie!

Watch how “Haman Ears” are made through this video by JewishPress TV:

4- Get Wasted at a Purim party

As I’ve already mentioned, the Talmud states that you should drink until you do not know the difference between “blessed be Mordecai” and “cursed be Haman”, that is until you reach a state of total intoxication. To fulfill this, many of the celebrators spend the whole night out, drinking and drinking and drinking in the various Purim parties throughout Israel.

Here are some of the top events of Purim 2019:

Jerusalem:

  • PURIM Pizdec Party – From March 21 at 9 PM to March 22 at 5 AM – get your tickets here.
  • Purim Party at the Terminal – March 20 starting from 9:30 PM – FREE entry. Check out more info in the Facebook event.
  • Purim Party at Blaze Rock Bar – March 20 starting from 11 PM – FREE entry. You just have to come with a costume. Address: 23 Hillel Street.

Tel Aviv:

There are many more parties taking place during Purim, so just ask around for more ideas.

This is how getting wasted looks like…

5- Make a Purim Basket

An important tradition of Purim is to give charity to the poor, usually in the form of a Purim basket, which is a basket full of useful food items or accessories. But there is also a tradition to give a Purim basket to your friends, filled with sweets, chocolates and things that make your friends happy. If you want, you can make a Purim basket and either send it to charity or give it to your travel partner. I’m sure they’ll love it!

An example of a Purim basket


Happy Purim everyone!

For more info about holidays in Israel, read Holidays in Israel and How to Spend Them During Travel.

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

Also, if you think anything is missing or have any more questions, please send me a message through my Facebook pageBackpack Israel or email me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

And if you’re planning a trip to Israel, don’t forget to check out my FREE app – Travel Israel for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Eilat Festivals & holidays Jerusalem Tel Aviv Trip Planning Tips

The Ultimate Summer Guide to Israel

Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links, meaning I get commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. All the recommendations are my own.

The Israeli Summer is already here! Summer in Israel takes place from June to September. I would recommend traveling to Israel in the Spring (February to May), because of the high temperatures in the Summer, but if you can’t come any other time or if you prefer the sunny months, here is my ultimate guide to traveling to Israel in the summer.

Israeli Summer Overview:

The Israeli Summer (June to September) is when the temperatures go way up. In some places, such as Eilat, it can climb over 50 degrees Celsius. This means you’ll have a great time on the beachside and in the cool water springs. On the other hand, you shouldn’t plan to take long hikes at this time of year.

From the end of June until the beginning of September Israeli kids are on their Summer vacation. This means many attractions will be crowded, especially on weekends (Fridays and Saturdays), when the parents are also on a break.

Bottom line: Summer is a perfect time to visit Israel if you just want to chill out on one of Israel’s beaches and take it easy. This time of year is also perfect for festival lovers because some of the best festivals take place at this time of year.

Watch this cool video by Shai Cohen:

Essential Summer packing list for Israel:

  • Enough short shirts and pants
  • Something that will warm you up in the evenings, in case it gets chilly (this is relevant mainly for those planning to go to Jerusalem, the desert or the Golan Heights area or for indoor activities)
  • Modest clothes to ear for holy places
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Flip-flops
  • Good sandals for walking
  • Sun hat
  • Beach towel
  • Bonus – a small personal fan
  • Anything else you may need for your trip

Summer travel tips for Israel:

  • Every day, pack at least 2-3 liters of water before you leave your accommodation.
  • Start your day as early as possible to get advantage of the cooler hours of the morning, or go out at night when temperatures drop.
  • If you want to cool down with an awesome soft drink, find a place that sells the Tamarindi drink.

Top things to do in the Israeli Summer:

  • Chill out on the Tel Aviv beachside (or any other beachfront town’s beachside, like Netanya or Herzliya).
  • Snorkel or dive in the Eilat Coral Beach Reserve.
  • Cool down in the springs and streams of Golan Heights.
  • Visit the many museums of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
  • Enjoy the Tel Aviv nightlife.
  • Explore the city of Tzfat (Safed).

Top things to avoid doing in the Israeli Summer:

  • Hiking – The Summer isn’t a good time for hiking (especially in the desert)! That’s because the heat is high and not all trails are shaded. Even if they are shaded, the temperatures are still very high. If you won’t carry enough water, it could be dangerous.
  • Pilgrimage tours (visiting churches) – Most of the churches in Israel and especially in Jerusalem don’t have A/C or any other cooling system. With all the pilgrims crowded in the small chapels, this could be a very sweaty experience. So, if you can postpone your pilgrimage journey to some time else, it would be better.
  • Exploring the Negev & Arava – The Israeli sun is a strong one and in Summer it “burns” the Israeli desert. During the daytime, the temperatures can be unbearable (around 40-45 degrees celsius). In the evenings, it can be much cooler. Though, if you want to have a great time in the Negev & Arava and see as much of it as you can, Summer is not the time.

Top places to visit in the Israeli Summer:

Eilat –

Eilat is one of the hottest places in Summer, with the temperature rising over 50 degrees celsius at times. But what makes Eilat a perfect place to visit in the Summer is its beautiful Red Sea, which is usually around 25 degrees celsius during Summer.

You can snorkel or dive in the Coral Reef Reserve, enjoy plenty of water activities or just hang out on one of Eilat’s beaches (Mosh Beach is highly recommended).

Eilat is also a leading shopping destination, thanks to the VAT-free shops. In the new Ice Mall on the northern side of Eilat is a nice ice rink if you have some spare shekels for a few minutes of ice skating.

Expected Weather: Very hot temperature ranging from 25 degrees Celsius at night to 50 degrees at day. The air is usually very dry.

Places to Stay: In Eilat, you can either camp (Camping Sites in and Around Eilat) or stay in one of the hostels: Arava Hostel or The Shelter Hostel. Both hostels are a few minutes by foot from the seaside. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to do in Eilat

Eilat – Perfect Place in Summer, taken from Pixabay

Tel Aviv –

Tel Aviv is super humid in Summer, but it has excellent beaches. Most of them are well maintained and they are a perfect place to get to know people, because they are packed people in Summer.

When you get tired of the beaches you can visit some of the leading Tel Aviv museums, including the Tel Aviv Art Museum, Independence Hall, and the Palmach Museum (pre-reservation needed).

In the night, one of the greatest things you can experience is Tel Aviv’s nightlife. Jump from one bar to another until the early morning. You can read my post – Pub Crawling Tel Aviv – The City That Never Sleeps,

Expected Weather: Hot temperature ranging from 20 degrees Celsius at night to 35 degrees at day on average. The humidity is super high with over 60% humidity during the day, which means you’re going to sweat a lot!

Places to Stay: There are plenty of great hostels in Tel Aviv. If you want to be near the sea, try out Tel Aviv Beachfront Hostel, which is situated right on the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Promenade. Another great hostel is Little Tel Aviv Hostel, situated in the heart of the city, a bit far from the beachside, and of course, the famous Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to Do in Tel Aviv

One of the beaches near Old Jaffa- Tel Aviv, taken from Pixabay

Tzfat (Safed) –

Safed is the city of Kabbalah and also one of the coolest cities in Israel (weather-wise), with temperatures around 30 degrees in Summer. In Summer, the temperature in Safed isn’t as hot as in other places in Israel, so it’s a good opportunity to explore the small, mystical Old City of Safed in Summer.

Walk along the beautiful alleys, enter the many art galleries, talk with the local people about the mystics of the city and Judaism, enjoy the music coming out of the houses, and simply breathe in the extraordinary air.

Expected Weather: Hot temperature ranging from 20 degrees Celsius at night to 30 degrees at day. The great thing about Safed is that humidity levels are quite low, with only about 40% humidity during the day, which makes the temperature much more bearable.

Places to Stay: There are some hotels inside the city, but if you want a cheaper stay you can check out Safed Inn, which is about a 10 minutes drive from the Old City by taxi. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to Do in Safed

The streets of Safed. Credit: Safed Municipility

The Golan Heights –

If you’re searching for some cool temperature during the Israeli Summer, you might find it in the Golan Heights, which is one of the highest regions of Israel.

Although the Golan is less green in Summer, it is still a nice place to visit. The best experience in the Golan in Summer is the springs and streams, where you can cool down from the heat.

One small and beautiful spring in the southern Golan is Aiah Spring (עין אי”ה), that overlooks all three countries: Israel, Jordan, and Syria. You can get to the spring by rented car. Type into Waze: “מעיין עין אי”ה”.

If you have some shekels to spare, you can visit the fantastic Hexagon Pool (HaMeshushim Reserve) in central Golan. It costs 22 Shekels per adult to enter.

Expected Weather: The temperatures are slightly different throughout the Golan, but on average they range from around 20 degrees at night to around 35 degrees during the day.

Golan – a wonderland even in Summer

Jerusalem –

If you haven’t been to Jerusalem, you should go despite of the heat. Evenings in Jerusalem are usually cool even in Summer and some activities can be done at that time, like hanging out in Machane Yehuda Market or exploring the alleys of the Old City. When it’s out outside, try visiting some of Jerusalem’s top museums, including The Israel Museum and Yad Vashem Museum (Yad Vashem, by the way, is free of charge). And of course, don’t forget to take part in the many events and festivals taking place in the city in Summer.

Expected Weather: The temperature is quite hot, with temperatures ranging from around 20 degrees at night to around 30 degrees during the day. The average humidity is 40%, which makes the temperatures more bearable.

Places to Stay: The best place to stay in Jerusalem is in the city center. I highly recommend Abraham Hostel Jerusalem, but there are also other recommended options, such as The Post Hostel and Rich’s Place in the City Center. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to do in Jerusalem 

Jerusalem – a must visit

Top Summer festivals and events in Israel:

Tel Aviv Pride – This week-long event celebrates Israel’s LGBT community life in a series of colorful events. The main event is the Pride Parade, which makes its way through Tel Aviv.

Lights in Jerusalem Festival – In this fabulous festival, the Old City of Jerusalem is lit by many artistic light displays. You can walk along designated trails and explore the wonders of the four different quarters at night. Free entry.

Israel Museum Wine Festival – In this four days event, visitors of the Israel Museum can sample wines of the leading wineries of Israel in the unique Art Garden. Ticket purchasing required through the Israel Museum website.

Safed Klezmer Festival – Enjoy a magical musical experience in the streets of Safed. Some performances require a ticket, others are open to the public.

Jerusalem Beer Festival – Enjoy dozens of beers in the heart of Jerusalem. Besides the beer, the festival is also full of great music, food stalls, and a clothing and accessories market. Ticket purchasing required and can be done at the entrance to the festival.

Hutzot Hayotzer Fair – This great festival takes place every year in the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem. It combines music with arts & crafts and is an event in which dozens of artists meet together from around the world. You can stroll through the artists’ stalls or purchase a ticket to one of the great musical shows. Anyhow, ticket purchasing is required.

Red Sea Jazz Festival – A four-day musical event in the hot city of Eilat, with top local and international artists. Ticket purchasing required and can be done through the festival’s website.

 Jewish holidays in the Summer:

Tisha B’Av – An annual fast day in Judaism, which commemorates several Jewish disasters, including the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Tisha B’Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, but usually, most people you’ll see fasting on this day are the religious Jews (unlike Yom Kippur, during which almost all Jews fast). There is no change in public transportation this day. Tisha B’Av usually takes place at the end of July or the beginning of August.

Rosh Hashana – The beginning of the Jewish year. On this holiday families and friends gather together, eat apples and honey and pomegranates as a wish for a sweet and fruitful new year. This is a two days holiday, during which there is no public transportation. Rosh Hashana usually takes place in September.

Yom Kippur – The holiest day on the Jewish calendar, the day of atonement. Many people in Israel fast for 25 hours, don’t use electronic devices such as smartphones, don’t drive or ride transportation. During this day there is no public transportation and to respect this day it is advised not to use private transportation as well. Yom Kippur usually takes place in September.

Suggested itinerary for a Summer in Israel (7 Days):

Land in Tel Aviv

Day 1 – Enjoy half a day on the beach and experience Tel Aviv’s nightlife

Day 2 – Visit one of Tel Aviv’s museums, Old Jaffa, and Florentine neighborhood.

Day 3 – Take a morning bus ride to Safed. It will take around 4 hours. When you arrive, start exploring Safed’s Old City.

Day 4 – You can spend the morning in Safed if you want to see anything else and then take a bus ride to Jerusalem. This will take about 3 hours and will require you to change buses at least once. When you arrive in Jerusalem, you can spend the night in the cool bars of Machane Yehuda Market.

Day 5 – Explore the Old City of Jerusalem and Ben Yehuda Street for shopping. You can also visit the City of David if you want to walk in the Siloah Tunnel which is full of flowing water.

Day 6 – Visit one of Jerusalem’s leading museums (the Israel Museum or Yad Vashem museum). Afterward, take the 5 PM bus to Eilat.

Day 7 – Snorkel in the Coral Reef Nature Reserve in the morning and then spend free time on one of Eilat’s beaches.

Book a flight out of Ramon Airport the following day. If there’s no flight to your country from there, take a bus back to Tel Aviv and take a flight from there.

The estimated cost of the trip (not including flights, transportation to and from airport, and food) – 1,130 NIS

Breakdown:

*3 nights stay in Tel Aviv – around 300 NIS in a hostel

*Tel Aviv nightlife expenses – around 70 NIS (online booking with D-TLV Pub Crawl – highly recommended!)

*Tel Aviv Art Museum – 50 NIS

*Bus ride from Tel Aviv to Safed – around 42 NIS

*Night in Safed – around 100 NIS in a hostel

*Bus ride from Safed to Jerusalem – around 61 NIS

*2 nights in Jerusalem – around 200 NIS in a hostel

*Jerusalem nightlife expenses – around 50 NIS (online booking with Abraham Hostels Pub Crawl – highly recommended!)

*City of David – 28 NIS

*The Israel Museum – 54 NIS (or Yad Vashem for free)

*2 nights in Eilat – around 140 NIS

*Coral Reef Nature Reserve – 35 NIS

To make your life easier with transportation, purchase a Rav-Kav transportation card at the Ben Gurion Airport or in one of the main bus stations. Read my Full Guide to Public Transportation in Israel.

Keep in mind that there is no public transportation during Shabbat (Friday evening to Saturday evening) and Jewish holidays, so make sure that you don’t plan to ride a bus on a day there isn’t transportation.

Have a great Summer in Israel!

Want help planning your trip to Israel?

You’re welcome to contact me for trip planning services.

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Think this post is useful or helpful? Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment 🙂

Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comment or through my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like a guided tour of Jerusalem when you come this summer!

Want help with planning your trip to Israel? Check out my new app, Travel Israel on Google Play or iTunes. You’re also welcome to contact me through the Experts tab.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Festivals & holidays Free things to do Hiking in Israel

Celebrating Anemones in the North-Western Negev

February is the month of the anemones in Israel. Tens of thousands of anemones bloom in bright red colors and paint many parts of Israel in red, especially the north-western part of the Negev region. During whole February, there is a festival dedicated to those beautiful flowers, a festival called “Darom Adom” or in translation to English: “Red South”, because the Negev is the southern part of Israel and the flowers color it red. Thousands of people make their way to the north-western part of the Negev to awe in front of the red carpets, take part in many different activities and hike along the nature trails.

I’ve never been to the Darom Adom Festival, so this year I’ve decided to see what’s it all about. With two friends of mine, we headed south to the area of the festival, just around two hours’ drive away from Jerusalem.

We set off on Thursday evening, having no clue where we will sleep. We tried contacting one of the Bedouin camps around Be’er Sheva, but they didn’t answer the phone, so we searched on the web for another option and found Hadkalim Farm (in Hebrew: חוות הדקלים). They picked up the phone and said: “No problem, you can come in an hour.”

We drove down road number 25 towards Be’er Sheva and a few kilometers down the road turned right onto a dark dirt road, that led on and on into the darkness. Waze assured us that we were on the right track. Then the signs signaling towards Hadkalim Farm started showing up. The road went on and on until we finally crossed a small bridge over the railway and got to the turn that leads right to the farm. One of the workers, Dvir, greeted us at the entrance and showed us where we can open our tent. You can camp with your own tent on the grounds of the farm or stay in one of the accommodation options, one of the big tents or a lodge.

Hadkalim Farm

We enjoyed every minute of our stay in Hadkalim Camp and everything about it: the dark starry sky, the wonderful camp fire, the well-organized kitchen space and hot water in the showers. When the sun rose in the morning, the beautiful landscape of Gerar River appeared before us. We were in the Negev, which I personally know as a brown-yellow area, a desert, but this place was full of green, full of foliage! In the morning, dew covered our tent and the grass and almost everything. But, the best thing about this farm are its people – wonderful, kind and generous people, who were willing to help us will whatever we needed. You can contact them on Facebook if you want to get more info about staying at their place.

In the morning, we explored a bit of Gerar River that was just a few steps away from the farm. The river is more like a standing line of water, but its surroundings are amazing – green and empty of people. We even saw some silkworms working on a new piece of silk on the ground. To get there on your own, you can catch one of the Egged buses that go from Be’er Sheva to Tidhar (for example: 353 and 343) and then hike your way through the Gerar River Park, that starts on the other side of the road.

Gerar River A Few Steps From the Farm

But we didn’t stay in that magical place for long and made our way by car to the places that all people went to – the area of the Darom Adom Festival. Our first stop was Shokeda Forest. It could be a magical place when there’s no festival or during the week, but when we got there the loud music ruined a bit of the experience. Though, the beautiful carpets of red anemones were very worth the drive here! There were thousands of them! We went on a short hiking trail through the small forest and mainly made photos of the flowers and of us with the flowers. Then, after a few minutes, we decided to go… It was too crowdy for us at that time.

Shokeda Forest

Our second station was Be’eri Forest. Well, tbis is a wonderful place! And because it was a bit western from Shokeda, much less people were there. There was no loud music and much less stalls of different foods and merchandise. It was much more of the anemones. There were a lot of them here, too. It was also a much larger forest than Shokeda. We began the trail in the Rehim Parking Lot (in Hebrew: חניון רעים) and started walking on the blue-marked trail called The Water Faciilities Trail (in Hebrew: דרך מתקני המים). We saw a water-wheel well from the Ottoman Period, a deep well from the British Period and some more interesting water facilities. There are also signs in English along the trail, so if you want to enjoy a nice trail that is also informative – this is a good choice. But, we didn’t complete the whole blue-marked trail. Halfway we turned onto the red-marked trail called The Anemones Bicycle Trail (in Hebrew: סינגל כלניות). We didn’t ride with a bike on the trail, but it was nice hiking it, too. There are loads of anemones along this narrow trail and it’s a long way from the crowds – truly beautiful!

Water-Wheel Well

Be’eri Forest

Sorry I didn’t write everything in detail. This post is just meant to give you an idea of the Darmon Adom Festival and what the anemones mean to the Israeli people. We make a lot of noise around them – and for a good reason! Hope to see you next time in the festival in Be’eri Forest and Shokeda Forest! If you need any help planning, feel free to contact me.

 


If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

Yours,

Lior

 

Categories
Festivals & holidays

Top Annual Events in Israel – January to June

Israel is a festive country, full of festivals, events and holidays all year round. In one of my recent posts I’ve given you a list of the main holidays in Israel and tips on how to spend them. Now, just before the new year arrives, here are the top annual festivals and events in Israel from January to June. Even if you aren’t planning to take part in the events, I do recommend you check what events are going on during your dates of travel, so you will be prepared for the crowds or changes in traffic.

Some events are very popular, so you might want to book accommodation a while in advance. Here are links for comparing accommodation prices in the main cities:

Accommodation prices in Jerusalem,

Accommodation prices in Tel Aviv,

 Accommodation prices in Eilat,

Accommodation prices in Tiberias,

Accommodation prices in Haifa.

– 

Top January Events in Israel:

Sea of Galilee Marathon: The highest quality marathon event in Israel, that starts in the city of Tiberias, goes along the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee and ends in Tiberias. You’re invited to come and cheer the runners.

Watching the event is free.

Where? Tiberias, Sea of Galilee.

When?

Official Site: Tiberias International Winner Marathon.

Israman Eilat: This full and half iron distance triathlon is one of the biggest and most exciting sports event in Israel. The race includes running, cycling, and swimming. You can gather along the Royal Beach area at the Northern part of the Red Sea to see the swimming segment and cheer the competitors.

Watching the event is for free. Because of the event, some roads might be blocked during the event’s weekend (24-27 of January).

Where? All over Eilat. The swimming segment will take place near Royal Beach.

When? 

Official Site: Israman Eilat.

Top February Events in Israel:

International Eilat Chamber Music Festival: A wonderful musical event, hosting international and local chamber music artists. You can also take part in master classes and workshops.

The event requires pre-payed tickets.

Where? Dan Hotel Eilat.

When? This year was in end of January. 

Official Site: International Eilat Chamber Music Festival.

Winter Red Sea Jazz Festival: This musical event is so popular, that it also takes place during summer. During the festival, you will be able to enjoy a variety of jazz concerts and master classes. There are also late-night jam sessions.

The event requires pre-payed tickets.

When? This year between 20-22 of February 2020.

Where? In different venues in Eilat.

Official Site: Winter Red Sea Jazz Festival.

Tel Aviv Marathon: One of the leading sports events in Israel, this multi-course marathon is a great event to watch or participate in. The marathon runs along the beautiful seashore of Tel Aviv and through the main streets of the city. Come and cheer the runners! If you would like to participate in the marathon, you can register through the official website.

Watching the event is for free.

Where? The kick off area is on Rokach Blvd in Tel Aviv.

When? The race will take place this year on 28 February 2020.

Official Site: Tel Aviv Marathon.

Darom Adom Outdoors Festival: “Darom Adom” means “Red South” in Hebrew, because of the colors that the Negev gets during this time of year. Each year after the rainy season, the northern Negev is covered with wonderful scarlet red anemones. This, of course, is a reason to celebrate. For five weekends there are many activities for families travelling to the northern Negev, such as poetry readings, concerts, mountain bike marathons and more. If you won’t get a chance to take part in one of the activities, at least come to see the beautiful flowers.

Where? Throughout the northern Negev.

When? Throughout February.

Official Site: Darom Adom (in Hebrew).

Top March Events in Israel:

International Jerusalem Marathon: One of the biggest marathon events in Jerusalem. During this marathon you’ll see thousands of people running on the streets of Jerusalem, not only as part of the marathon, but also as part of the half marathon and other shorter races. If you aren’t planning on participating in the marathon events as a runner (which is an option if you register beforehand), you’re invited to cheer the runners from the sides of the streets. It’s free.

Because of the event, some roads might be blocked during the different races.

Where? Throughout Jerusalem.

When? The race will take place this year on 20 March 2020.

Official Site: International Jerusalem Marathon.

Tel Aviv Fashion Week: If you’re interested in fashion, you might be interested in participating in this fancy event. To watch the fashion shows, you need to purchase a ticket.

Where? Tel Aviv. Location not yet updated.

When? Not set yet.

Official Site: Tel Aviv Fashion Week.

Open Restaurants Festival Tel Aviv: A culinary event. For more info, check out the official website: Open Restaurants Festival Tel Aviv.

International Birdwatching Festival in Eilat: If you’re fond of birds, this is a festival for you. A bit north of Eilat stands the Birdwatching Park of Eilat. During March, thousands of birds are supposed to arrive in the area as part of their spring migration. Together with bird lovers from all over the world, you can watch the birds in the park and get professional explanations. On other days, the park stands quite empty and there’s usually no one who give explanations, so you might want to leverage this festival.

The entrance is free.

Where? In the birdwatching park north of Eilat. You can walk to the park (about a 40-minutes’ walk) or you can catch any bus going out of Eilat on road number 90 and ask the driver to get off at the Eilot roundabout. From there, you’ll have about a 20-minutes’ walk.

When?  This year between 22-29 March 2020.

Official Site: Birdwatching Festival.

Sounds of the Old City Festival: This is a magical event, that fills the Old City of Jerusalem with magnificent sounds of traditional music. During the festival, you’ll be able to walk through the four quarters of the Old City, the Armenian, the Jewish, the Muslim and the Christian quarters, and enjoy a whole new experience in each one of them.

The entrance is free.

Where? The Old City of Jerusalem.

When? This year between 24-26 March 2020.

Official Site: Sounds of the Old City Festival.

Top April Events in Israel:

Haifa International Children’s Theater Festival: A nice festival if you’re coming to Israel with your kids. During the festival, you will be able to enjoy colorful open-air performances in the area next to the Haifa Municipal Theatre or purchase a ticket to one of the theatre shows taking place inside the theatre.

Where? Haifa Municipal Theatre on 50 Pebzner Street.

When? This year between the 12-14 of April 2020.

Official Site: Haifa International Children’s Theater Festival.

“Zorba the Buddha” Meditation and Dance Festival: Come and celebrate Zorba in the enchanting and relaxing desert. This is one of the best meditation festivals in the area.

You will need to purchase a ticket to take part in the event.

Where? In Desert Ashram in Shitim settlement, on road number 40. There is an option of a shuttle from Tel Aviv. Check that option on their official website.

When? This year between 12-16 of April 2020.

Official Site: Zorba Festival.

Automotor – International Motor Show: If you’re a car lover, this event might be for you. During the event, you’ll be able to enjoy splendid car shows, displaying a variety of cars and motorbikes, including some very special cars.

This event requires a ticket. You can purchase online.

Where? The Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center in Tel Aviv. Reachable by train.

When? Not set yet.

Official Site: Automotor.

Top May Events in Israel:

International Museum Day: Like in the rest of the world, we in Israel also celebrate the International Museum Day, with dozens of museums open free to the public. If you’re interested in visiting museums in Israel, you might want to shift your trip towards May.

Where? Throughout Israel.

When? 18th of May.

Menas

Israel Festival: This is a huge interdisciplinary festival known world-wide. The festival includes drama, music and dance performances that require a ticket and free outdoor performances.

You will need to purchase a ticket for the festival.  If you are a student, you get 50% off the ticket, so don’t forget to bring your student ID.

Where? Throughout Jerusalem: at the Jerusalem Theatre (20 Marcus Street), Sultan’s Pool (Derech Hevron St. 1), the Israel Museum (11 Derech Ruppin), the Eden-Tamir Music Center (29 Hama’ayan St) and at Zion Square (25 Shamai Street).

When? Not set yet.

Official Site: Israel Festival.

Top June Events in Israel:

Midburn Festival (Israel’s Burning Man): You’re welcome to take part in this 6-days event, during which a temporary city is built from scratch in the Negev Desert. Then, the people live in this city, that allows a communal life style and radical self-expression. This is your chance to experience near-freedom. After 6 days, the city is burned down to the ground, as if it never existed.

You will need to purchase a ticket for the festival.

Where? In the Negev, near the exit from road number 40.

When? Not set yet.

Official Site: Midburn Festival.

Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade: Tel Aviv is known for its gay community and every year during June the city comes to life in magnificent colors as the Gay Pride Parade passes through. Come support the gay community and enjoy the wonderful and fun atmosphere.

Where? The parade leaves from Me’ir Park and ends with a great party at Charles Clore beach.

When? This year the parade will take place on 12 June 2020.

Official Site: Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade.

International Student Film Festival: This is one of the top cultural events in Tel Aviv, promoting academic artistry. It is considered one of the three best festivals of its kind in the world. During the festival you’ll be able to see the works of students from the Tel Aviv University’s Department of Film and Television, but also from other schools around the world. The festive week is filled with interesting films, master classes, workshops, exhibitions and parties.

Where? Tel Aviv Cinematheque, Sprinzok Street.

When? This year the festival will take place between 21-27 of June 2020.

Official Site: International Student Film Festival.

Jerusalem International Book Fair: The Jewish people are known as the “People of the Book”, so it is no wonder that the international book fair is so celebrated in Jerusalem. If you love reading, you might want to walk around the fair’s stalls and get inspired by the many books. You can also try to read the Hebrew titles.

The entrance is free.

Where? The First Station in Jerusalem (David Remez Street 4). Can easily be reached by bus.

When? Not set yet.

Official Site: Jerusalem International Book Fair.

White Night Tel Aviv: A great celebration taking place during one night in Tel Aviv, from the early hours of the evening to the next day. Throughout Tel Aviv you’ll find different exhibitions and activities. This is a very popular event, which draws Israelis from all over the state.

Most events are open for free. Some require a payment.

Where? Throughout Tel Aviv.

When? This year the festival will take place on 25 of June 2020.

Jerusalem Opera Festival: This is a grand opera event, set in the outstanding outdoors of the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem.

You will need to purchase a ticket for the festival.

Where? The Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem.

When? Not set yet.

If you know of any more festivals or events from January to June in Israel, please let me know in the comments.


If you liked this post or found it useful, I’ll really appreciate a like, share or comment (:

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Looking for a tour guide in Israel? I might be available. Contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

And check out what else you can do in Israel through my app – Travel Israel for Android and iOS.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Festivals & holidays Jerusalem Tel Aviv

Best December Festivals in Israel

There are two major holidays celebrated in December: the Jewish Chanukah and the Christian Christmas. So, before I tell you about the other festivals and events, let me tell you a few words about celebrating Chanukah and Christmas in Israel:

Celebrating Chanukah in Israel: Chanukah is celebrated for eight nights and days, this year during December 2-10. During the holiday, in major squares you might see huge menorahs being lighted using electric bulbs and smaller menorahs sitting on the windowsills of houses. On the smaller menorahs you’ll see candles with real fire. You’ll also be able to enjoy the delicious jelly doughnuts (“suf-ga-nee-ot”) that are sold in every bakery shop.

Celebrating Christmas in Israel: Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem. This makes Israel a perfect place to celebrate the holiday! Come experience the prayers and the beautiful Christmas decorations. The best places to celebrate Christmas in Israel are Bethlehem (in the West Bank territory), Jerusalem, Nazareth, Haifa, and Tel Aviv. You can join Abraham Tour’s Christmas Tour in Bethlehem.

For more info, visit Holidays in Israel and How to Spend Them During Travel.

Jacob’s Ladder Festival –

One of the biggest musical events along the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Kineret). The festival will take place in the Nof Ginosar Hotel throughout the weekend. The program will include many types of music, including folk music, Jazz, Swing, Blues and World Music. Tickets are required to participate, so hurry before they’ll be sold out.

When? December 1-2, 2018.

Official site: Jacob’s Ladder Festival.

Looking for places to stay in the area? Check out the Tiberias Hostel or try to find good deals for hotels in Tiberias through hotelscombined.

Sounds of Music in the Desert Festival –

A wonderful festival, that brings to the Israeli desert some of the best Israeli musical artists. If you wish to experience Israeli music in the beautiful Israeli desert scene, this is the festival for you. Tickets are required to participate. Sadly, I couldn’t find a website in English, but you can try talking with the festival’s organizers by calling +972-50-5545501. There is also an option of purchasing the tickets on site. The festival takes place in Kibbutz Sde Boker.

When? December 5-8, 2018.

Jerusalem Jazz Festival – Come enjoy three days full of jazz in Jerusalem. During the festival, you can enjoy intimate shows in the Israel Museum (tickets required) and free jam sessions in the Yellow Submarine (on Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30PM).

When? December 12-14, 2018.

Official site: Jerusalem Jazz Festival.

Looking for places to stay in the area? Try finding good deals for hotels in Jerusalem through hotelscombined.

Cheap Jerusalem Tours on Saturdays:

Every weekend, the Jerusalem Municipality organizes interesting tours of Jerusalem, that leave at 10:00 AM from the Safra Plaza (Kikar Safra) next to the City Hall. There are tours are in English, costing only 15 ILS each. It’s worth checking out.

For more info, visit their site: Free Saturday Tours.

Will keep you updated on more events when I know about them! If you know of anything, I will very much appreciate if you leave the details in the comments. Thanks!

Have a wonderful weekend and Shabbat Shalom (:


This post has been updated for December 2018.

If you liked this post or found it useful, I’ll be glad to get a like, share or comment from you (:

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Yours,

Lior

Categories
Festivals & holidays

What is Shabbat?

Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week. In Hebrew, “Shabbat” comes from the verb “Lishbot,” which means “to stop working.” According to the Bible, GOD created the world in six days and then stopped working and rested on the seventh day. So on Shabbat, Jewish people rest from their everyday work and remember the six days of creation.

Is Shabbat on Saturday? Not exactly. In Judaism, each day begins when the first three stars appear in the night sky. It happens about 25 minutes after sunset. So, the seventh day begins on Friday eve, a short while after sunset, and ends when three stars appear in the sky on Saturday eve.

Israel is a democratic state but is also a Jewish state. That is why many services are not available on Shabbat. Public institutions are closed, most stores and restaurants are closed, and there’s almost no public transportation. But what about the people? What does the individual Israeli do during Shabbat? Well, it depends who you ask.

Post last updated on 12 September 2021.

Table of contents:

The non-religious Shabbat experience:

I am a non-religious Jew, which means I do not perform all the obligations of Judaism. For me and many others, Shabbat is a perfect time to see friends and family. Most people in Israel don’t work on Saturday because of the Shabbat. Friday is usually a half working day, but some people don’t work on Friday at all. So, most people are free on Shabbat and use this time to catch up on relationships. 

Sometimes, I take a bus or drive to my parents’ house before the Shabbat enters. During the week, my parents eat dairy-based food for dinner, but on Friday eve, they make meat or fish. That’s because the Shabbat dinner is supposed to be the grandest feast of the week. I’ll tell you more about that later. 

When I’m not visiting my parents on Shabbat, I usually stay at home. Sometimes my friends suggest to go out and explore nature together. I don’t have a car, so if they offer me a lift in theirs, I’m always happy to go breathe some fresh air. Usually, the national parks and picnic areas are packed with secular families during the weekend. 

The Shabbat dinner:

To distinguish Shabbat from other days, we usually eat a grand feast on Friday eve. Many Jewish people do this, regardless of their level of faith. The Jewish law states that you must enjoy the finest food on Shabbat, food that brings you pleasure. For most people, it’s meat or fish. But if you’re vegetarian, it might be other things. My family also makes a grand feast on Friday eve, with many types of dishes and meat. On other days, as I said, we eat simple dairy products for dinner.

The Shabbat dinners vary from one family to another. Most non-religious Jews will only eat something special, but some will also add some blessings and rituals. Religious people will sing all the hymns, bless all the blessings, and do all the rituals, but the way they do it might vary from one family to another. So… Here are some of the main rituals connected to the Shabbat dinner:

The lighting of the candles:

A few minutes before Shabbat enters, the women light the two candles of Shabbat. Back in ancient days, there was no electricity, and the fire of the candles was the only source of light. By lighting the candles, the family could see the food they were eating and truly enjoy it. 

Singing hymns:

After people come back from the synagogue, the family gathers around the table and sings “Shalom Aleichem,” which welcomes the angels and requests their blessings. Then, the father reads “Eishet Chayil, a tribute to his wife, who works hard to keep the family together and the home warm. We once hosted a friend of mine for Shabbat dinner and explained to her that “Eishet Chayil” is meant to thank the wife for her hard work. So, she asked if we have a tribute for the husband, too. “We don’t say thank you to the husband because he doesn’t do anything,” my husband joked. 

The Kiddush: 

The ceremony host recites a blessing called Kiddush over a full cup of wine. Then, the cup is passed between everyone, usually from the oldest to the youngest, and everyone takes a sip. In Hebrew, “kiddush” means “sanctification.” The blessing over the wine sanctifies the Shabbat from the rest of the weekdays. 

The eating of the challah:

After the Kiddush, people will do a ritual hand-washing. Then, they will keep quiet until the host will take hold of the two challahs and recite another blessing. The host will cut small pieces of the challah, dip them in salt, and pass them around the table. After eating the challah, people can talk again. 

The challah is a traditional bread connected to Shabbat and Jewish holidays. There are several reasons for dipping it in salt before eating it. One of the reasons is that the challah is like a meal offering to GOD. Since the offerings were dipped in salt in the Holy Temple, we dip the challah in salt too. 

If you wonder how you can make challah at home, here is a short video by The Cooking Foodie:

Want to take attend a Shabbat dinner during your stay in Israel? You can try Shabbat of a Lifetime.

Shabbat for religious people:

The restrictions of Shabbat:

When I served in the army, I served with religious people. There are all kinds of religious Jewish people in Israel, some very-very religious and some less. Sometimes we stayed in the base on Shabbat. Then, I had a chance to experience a bit of the religious Shabbat atmosphere.

According to religion, you need to rest from everything on Shabbat. There are many things you cannot do on Shabbat. You can’t drive, can’t use your phone, can’t work on the computer, can’t watch TV… In fact, you can’t use any electronic device. Some rabbis say that when you use an electronic device, you create an electrical circuit. It is forbidden to create anything on Shabbat, so that’s why they forbid it. Though, if you create the electrical circuit before Shabbat enters, that’s ok. In the army, we had an electric water boiler that we could use only because it was on “Shabbat mode.” That’s how we could make ourselves tea and coffee. We switched it on before Shabbat and didn’t touch the switch till the holy day ended.

Also, religious Jewish people can’t eat food cooked during Shabbat. Because if you cooked it on Shabbat, it means you worked and turned on electronic cooking devices. So how do you eat warm food on Shabbat? You cook the food before Shabbat and warm it up using an electric heating platter (called “plata” in Hebrew), which you plug into electricity before the Shabbat enters. 

There are many more restrictions. If you want to learn about them all, read about the 39 forms of work on Wikipedia.

The end of Shabbat:

When I was in the army, my favorite time was when the Shabbat was about to end. Not because it was about to end, but because I loved seeing my religious friends getting ready for the upcoming week. There’s this beautiful little ceremony called “Havdalah” (meaning “separation” in Hebrew) that marks the end of the Shabbat and the beginning of the new week. In the ceremony, we sip from a cup of wine, light a long candle, and smell the strong aroma of a spice. I loved the smell of the spice. Some blessings are said, and the Shabbat comes to an end until the next one.

Visiting Israel on Shabbat? Here are some practical tips:

How to get around Israel on Shabbat?
Shabbat in Jerusalem: What’s Open?

Have a peaceful Shabbat! Shabbat Shalom (:

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If you liked this post or found it useful, I’ll be glad to get a like, share or comment from you (:

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Yours,

Lior