Hanukkah activities for all to enjoy

All that's happening in Jerusalem for the holiday.

Left and Top: the OU Israel Center group, ‘Linking Our Lives2gether’ for active single Olim 60-75, will be having a Hanukkah Party and Game Night. (photo credit: OU ISRAEL)
Left and Top: the OU Israel Center group, ‘Linking Our Lives2gether’ for active single Olim 60-75, will be having a Hanukkah Party and Game Night.
(photo credit: OU ISRAEL)
Who isn’t counting down to Hanukkah? We are all! It’s a holiday we all love and can connect to in our own, personal way.
Here in Jerusalem, Hanukkah is in the air. The stores and shuk are full of colorful doughnuts, hanukkiot and olive oil and the public hanukkiot are up along main streets. One can certainly sense the seasonal vibe and excitement.
As an oleh, Hanukkah for me isn’t just about recalling the miracles of the past; I also am always conscious of the present-day miracle I am part of – living in the modern State of Israel and being able to celebrate our hagim in the land in which they happened. I make sure to spend one evening of Hanukkah walking around the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, seeing the hanukkiot lit up outside, and then I walk down to the Kotel passing the replica of the golden menorah that stood in the Temple, thinking how privileged I am to live so close to where the Hanukkah miracle of the oil actually happened.
There is plenty for everyone to do during Hanukkah in Jerusalem – here are some highlights for all the family.
IF YOU you are looking to get into the Hanukkah spirit, there are some interesting events worth looking into.
On December 21, the Saturday night before Hanukkah, the Ginot Ha’ir Community Council, together with Shir Hadash on Emek have a special pre-Hanukkah games evening for the whole family, at Beit Yehudit at 12 Emek Refaim St., including dancing, pizza, prizes and crafts with GIFT Israel. Fun for the whole family!
If you are looking for some interesting thoughts to share with family and friends while lighting candles, Nishmat on 26A Berel Locker St., at Tzomet Pat, have a special Hanukkah preparatory day of study for men and women, on Sunday, December 22, from 8.45 a.m.
I sat down and spoke with Joanna Shebson who runs the Fun in Jerusalem (www.funinjerusalem.com) website, an excellent resource for events and activities, to hear from her about what’s on for families over Hanukkah.
Shebson said that one activity many people enjoy is simply being outside and experiencing Hanukkah being all around you. She said,”From the street decorations to the hanukkiot in almost every window, you feel the holiday everywhere. My favorite activity is to walk through different neighborhoods with my kids and count the hanukkiot, especially in Nahlaot.”
As far as events going on, Shebson said that three highlights for her were:
1) Theater: The English musical production by Beit Hillel Theater, who this year will be performing Fiddler on the Roof, with matinees and evening performances. “It’s a real crowd pleaser for families,” she said,
2) Jerusalem Candlelit Scavenger Hunts, which Shebson said were a “great way to add some fun and adventure to your Hanukkah – with candlelit hunts in Nahlaot and the Old City.”
3) The Yonina Musical Tour of the Old City: Shebson said, “Yoni Tokayer will take you on a tour of the alleyways of the Old City while together with his wife Nina – the musical sensation Yonina – who will perform at the end of the tour.”
Next I asked Shebson about activities grandparents can enjoy with their grandchildren over Hanukkah. She again recommended Fiddler on the Roof, which she described as “a real hit for grandparents and grandchildren to enjoy together.” She also said that the interactive art workshops are a popular activity for multigenerational groups.
“Studio Kliche will be hosting cement Hanukkah workshops in their studio on Derech Beit Lehem,” she noted.
Finally, we chatted about a favorite activity for many of us over Hanukkah – doughnut tasting. Said Shebson, “We love doughnut tasting. It’s a fun activity for Hanukkah, as long as you share the doughnut on each stop. Kadosh is a must, with the most creative doughnuts in town. Roladin is also a favorite. They even produce a fancy doughnut menu.” For those who feel like driving out to Gush Etzion, she added, “make sure to stop into Pat Bamelach Efrat for some of Chef Dikla’s delicious flavored doughnuts.”
I interviewed others about their favorite Hanukkah activities.
• Avi Narrow-Tilonsky, who made aliyah to Jerusalem from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, spoke about the sufgania competition he does every year with friends. “Every year I go around the local bakeries with friends and we rate the sufganiyot – of course, including Roladin’s. At the end of Hanukkah, we have a vote on where we think we tasted the tastiest sufgania.”
• Avigayle Adler, who runs her very popular Open Studio for children, said that over Hanukkah, she will be offering kaytanot and private family workshops. In her kaytana, children have lots of creative fun, including sewing, working in glass and mosaics and baking. It is possible to sign up per day. Families or private groups can choose from a workshop in mosaics, glass painting or silk painting. For more information and to make a reservation, email her at [email protected]
• Tali Tarlow, who runs Israel ScaVentures, will be putting on special Hanukkah activities for all the family. Her tour games explore the story of Israel’s people, places and events. They’re a combination of a scavenger hunt and an awesome adventure. This Hanukkah, the ScaVentures company is running scavenger hunts in the Old City, Yemin Moshe, Mahaneh Yehuda and much more all over Israel. They are even running a candlight scavenger hunt in Nahlaot. ScaVentures are run every day of the week except Saturday. It is an extremely popular program and becomes booked up quickly, so be sure to book your tour in advance. For more info, contact Tarlow at www.israelscaventures.com / [email protected]

I LOVE being outside over Hanukkah and soaking up the festive holiday atmosphere. Seeing the hanukkiah on top of the Knesset from my bedroom window, the colorful shapes of hanukkiot and dreidels on the walls of the Old City in the evenings, hearing the Pirchei Yerushalayim boys choir sing Hanukkah songs and seeing the gesher hametarim – the bridge by the entrance to the city lit up in special Hanukkah colors makes you really appreciate how we are celebrating the miracle in public, as a nation.
A Hanukkah favorite for many – including myself – is the public hanukkiah lighting at the entrance to the Mamilla Mall organized by Chabad each night. And yes… they give out free sufganiyot! Each night, they have different performers and musicians who light the giant menorah and sing our favorite songs. On Motsei Shabbat, they light later, to give you time to arrive. Narrow-Tilonsky said he makes sure to go to the public lighting at the Mamilla Mall. “The Mamilla Hanukkah lighting is really special – the music and entertainment is great and I always bump into friends there.”
The First Station, or as we call it, the Tachana, is always a popular place to enjoy Jerusalem culture and socialize. There will be a giant menorah lighting every day of Hanukkah at 5:30 p.m., with doughnuts and music. On Tuesday, December 24, there will be a special menorah lighting, including a concert by the Solomon Brothers and an incredible circus act. Entrance is free.
Speaking of music, if you are looking for tuneful holiday experiences, you may enjoy listening to:
• The Solomon Brothers, who will be playing on Tuesday, December 24, at Mike’s Place from 9 p.m. and
• Yonina, who will be playing at Noktorno at 7 Bezalel St. on Saturday night, December 28. Doors open at 8 p.m.; the concert begins at 9 p.m.

IN ADDITION to the private parties, there are also public events on for young professionals over Hanukkah.
• Nefesh B’Nefesh is having a special Friday night supper for American-style Chinese food in a special Hanukkah festive atmosphere on December 27 at the Shimon Hatzadik Synagogue in San Simon for olim in their 20s and 30s. Contact Yoel at NBN for more details.
• JIC Israel is putting on a “rotating tables” event for young professionals on 1st night Chanukah, Sunday December 22, from 7 p.m. at the John Smith Bar at Cinema Hostel, #4 Shamai. Tickets, including two drinks and snacks, are NIS 60 online and NIS 70 at the door. To register go to www.jicny.com.
• JChat, the young professionals committee of the OU Israel Center on Keren Hayesod is putting on an international Hanukkah party for young professionals on Monday, December 23, with words of inspiration from Rabbi Sam Shor and fun Hanukkah-related activities and goodies. For more details look at OUIsrael.org.
• BaBayit: The BaBayit organization, which caters to young olim from religious-Zionist, Bnei Akiva backgrounds in the Katamon/ Baka neighborhoods, is having a party on Tuesday, December 24, at 7.30 p.m. Look at their Facebook Page, “BAbayit Katamon” for more details.
THERE ARE also several events for ‘senior singles’ over Hanukkah, such as:
• Linking Our Lives2gether, the OU Israel Center group for active single olim seniors, is having a Chanukah Party and Game Night on Wednesday, December 25 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. They promise a fun-filled evening with new and traditional games, friendship, laughter and refreshments: latkes, sufganiyot and more. To book a place, call (02) 560-9110 or register online on the OU website.
• AACI is having a special Hanukkah workshop with Dana Ernsotff, founder of Creative Crafts and its Adult (and Kids) Mosaic Workshops. For more information, see the website: Creativecrafts4u2.com and Contact the AACI at (02) 566-1181 for additional events over Hanukkah.

A HANUKKAH highlight for many Jerusalemites is Shabbat Hanukkah. Shuls put on special kiddushim and the prayers are especially tuneful. There are usually special shiurim relating to the themes of Hanukkah over Shabbat itself and activities on Motsei Shabbat. Friday night prayers at the Kotel are attended by residents and holiday celebrants alike and it’s inspiring to see so many types of worshipers at the Kotel celebrating the Jewish Festival of Lights.
Some make the effort to attend daily prayers over Hanukkah. As it’s holiday time and children are off school, you may want to have a lie-in but still catch a minyan in the morning. The Shteiblech Synagogue in Katamon on the corner of Hachish St. and Hamatzor St. has later minyanim on the mornings of Hanukkah, and in the evenings they light the hanukkiah before Maariv. The ELC, on 64 Emek Refaim has two minyanim in the mornings throughout Hanukkah – at 6:40 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.
So there is plenty on over Hanukkah for all the family – and, of course, yummy sufganiyot to eat, too! But, whatever you do, don’t forget to bear in mind how lucky we are to be able to celebrate this joyous holiday of ours in our shared, modern-day miracle – our beloved State of Israel.