The year of the Hanukka staycation

There are plenty of Hanukka-themed events to enjoy during the day as well.

The ‘Bell Caves’ at Beit Guvrin (photo credit: SHMUEL BAR-AM)
The ‘Bell Caves’ at Beit Guvrin
(photo credit: SHMUEL BAR-AM)
With a short school vacation schedule, many locals have decided to stay put this Hanukka and entertain their children with day trips. A well-planned “staycation” gives you the best of both worlds – the comfort of home with the excitement of nearby attractions and special Hanukka events.
First on my list of Hanukka “must-see” activities is a candle lighting ceremony.
Choose from a religious experience at the Western Wall, a downtown Jerusalem experience at Safra Square or a community experience at the First Station. Each ceremony honors different guests from Israeli society with lighting the candles. As the sun sets and candle lighting time approaches, my personal favorite activity is a candlelit scavenger hunt through Nahlaot or the Old City. You can play this interactive game with your kids, learn about the history of the neighborhood and see all the neighborhood hanukkiot at the same time.
There are plenty of Hanukka-themed events to enjoy during the day as well. For schoolage kids who speak Hebrew, there is the Beit Avi Chai Hanukka Activity. In the past, their Heroes of Israel activity was a real mix of education and entertainment (a.k.a.
“edutainment”). This year, they will host a new activity called “Turning Up the Lights on Hanukka.” Using theater, workshops and art activities, they will bring the story of Hanukka alive.
If you feel like you need to leave the city to make your Hanukka staycation exciting, then I recommend you take your family to an archeological dig at Beit Guvrin. At a half-day Dig 4 A Day activity, you may find artifacts from the time of the Maccabees. The activity ends with a caving experience in unexcavated caves that your adventurous kids will remember forever.
Once you‘re out there, don’t miss the newest museum in the Beit Shemesh area, the Biblical Museum of Natural History, where you can sign up for an organized tour to see live animal and taxidermy exhibits of animals from the time of the Bible and the Mishna. The tour is given by the “Zoo Rabbi” himself, Rabbi Natan Slifkin.
With unpredictable weather, it’s good to know that both these activities take place “rain or shine.”
A staycation doesn’t have to be limited to Hanukka themed activities. If your kids enjoy sports, take advantage of the new one-day Hapoel basketball clinic in Baka on December 22, taught by Tamir Goodman, the “Jewish Jordan.”
If you prefer art, don’t miss the Hanukka Open House at Kakadu, just outside Beit Shemesh in Moshav Tzafririm.
Meet Reut Shachar, the renowned artist who will open up her studio and workshop to teach families how to create masterpieces from painted wood.
If you’re looking for an option for your kids to enjoy art in the city, consider the Traveling Art Camp at the Open Studio.
Another uniquely Jerusalem experience is the new Jerusalem Ropes Course at Ammunition Hill. It’s an interesting way to mix modern-day bravery with the stories of the courageous men and women who fought to establish our country.
Take advantage of Jerusalem’s Museum Row if you don’t want to go too far. You can enjoy the “Big Bambu” exhibition at the Israel Museum (it’s amazing) or the Hanukka of Light Tour and Activity at the Bible Lands Museum and the “Touching the Light” exhibition at the Bloomfield Science Museum.
For younger kids, the Ein Yael Festival lets you step back in time and learn about crafts from the past.
A staycation is not complete without a bit of theater. At the end of a long and busy day of activities, grab a quick dinner and head out to the Beit Hillel performance of one of Disney’s most famous musicals, Beauty and the Beast. With a live five-piece orchestra, creative costuming and a cast of actors from around the world, it really is fun for the whole family.
You never know…after all that fun, your kids may ask you to stay home for another Hanukka staycation next year.
Enjoy all the fun in Jerusalem!
Details for the activities mentioned above can be found at calendar.
The writer is the founder and FUN expert at Fun In Jerusalem. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and three children and loves to inspire family fun. You can reach her at joanna@