This Was Chanukah: 2019 Highlights from around Israel

Meaningful moments: respite days for families from the beleaguered Gaza border region and accessible fun days for children with special needs.

Acrobats perform for children with special needs at the KKL-JNF Chanukah fun day in Gilat. (photo credit: YOAV DEVIR KKL-JNF)
Acrobats perform for children with special needs at the KKL-JNF Chanukah fun day in Gilat.
(photo credit: YOAV DEVIR KKL-JNF)
Thousands of families, volunteers, youth movements, and disadvantaged populations participated in a variety of Chanukah activities and events organized by KKL-JNF throughout Israel, including OTD activities, fun-days and excursions, complete with the requisite latkes, jelly donuts and the lighting of the Menorah.
Taking the Jewish tradition of widely publicizing the miracle of Chanukah to the hilt, KKL-JNF held a plethora of Chanukah-themed events in the great outdoors at its parks, forests and tourist sites around Israel. All events were either free of charge or for a symbolic fee.
Events open to the public included child-friendly lantern-lit night walks in forest parks around Israel, a Nefesh b’Nefesh celebration at Hula Lake Park for immigrant families from English-speaking countries, ecological arts-and-crafts, photography workshops and much more.
We report from some of this year’s special highlights: 
In Yatir forest, hundreds of children and their families from various towns and kibbutzim near the tense Gaza border region enjoyed a festive Chanukah respite in Yatir Forest, courtesy of KKL-JNF. The children enjoyed a variety of activity stations - building menorahs and dreidels from natural materials, decorating sufganiot (donuts), baking pita bread, music workshops and performances.
Ricky Hassan from Sderot, who came to event with three of her nine children, told us that it was a “lovely and exciting day. We really needed this vacation. The welcoming guides smiled at us nonstop, and the children smiled right along with them."
Also in Yatir Forest, the KKL-JNF Education Department for the Southern Region held a ‘Green Day’ for over 400 elementary schoolchildren from youth groups of the Be’er Tuvia regional council.
“We did a full day of activities for the youth, getting them acquainted with the unique Yatir Forest and a number of local sites in the Yatir area,” said department director Hagit Ohana. “The children were really happy and enjoyed the activities and being out in the sun. I hope there will be future cooperation between KKL-JNF and the Beer Tuvia Regional Council as well as with other regional councils.”
Meanwhile, at the KKL-JNF Visitors’ Center in Gilat, it was impossible to determine what lit the  room more – the flickering Chanukah candles or the radiant smiles of KKL-JNF’s special young guests from Kav LaChayim, a social organization for children with complex disabilities.
At the fun day created just for them, the children enjoyed musical and juggling performances, made their own Hanukkah candelabras, dreidels and oil cruses, took part in a variety of board and video games and feasted on special Chanukah treats.
“I’m having fun spending time with the volunteers and especially with all my friends from Kav LaChayim”, enthused 13-year-old Moriah Kandlecker of Ashdod.
Strengthening communities in Israel’s outlying regions, supporting disadvantaged populations, and imparting the values of Zionism, ecology and love of the land through informal education are of top priority for KKL-JNF.
“Through our activities we connect the children to the forest and the work of KKL-JNF,” said KKL-JNF counselor Galia Malka, who helped lead Green Day activities at the Yatir Field and Forest Education Center. “We can pass on the message of the importance of the forest and the environment. The activities also help them learn how to cooperate amongst themselves. They really love it.”