Hanukkah: Fun activities in Israel for the Jewish Festival of Lights

This is a great opportunity for everyone to get out in nature and visit sites all over the country and enjoy the fresh air and the holiday festivities. 

 Hanukkah activities in the Modi'in area. (photo credit: DAVID LAZAR)
Hanukkah activities in the Modi'in area.
(photo credit: DAVID LAZAR)

The Hanukkah holiday is rapidly approaching, and all around Israel attractions, tours, festivals, shows and fun family-friendly activities will be taking place. This is a great opportunity for everyone to get out in nature and visit sites all over the country and enjoy the fresh air and the holiday festivities. 

1. Tower of David Museum

The Tower of David Museum will be holding hanukkiah tours of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, and Christmas tours of the Christian Quarter. 

The Light up the City Tour will commence at the museum, and then continue on to the narrow alleys and courtyards of the Jewish Quarter, where you will see hanukkiot all lit up in front of people’s homes.

During the tour, you will learn about the historical significance and traditions of Hanukkah, and can join in singing popular Hanukkah songs. The tour will end with a view over the Western Wall.

 Tower of David Museum (credit: ADI ZELEK WEINER/ZED FILMS) Tower of David Museum (credit: ADI ZELEK WEINER/ZED FILMS)

The Christmas Tour will take you through the narrow streets of the Christian Quarter, where you will hear descriptions of Christmas celebrations. You’ll have time to buy souvenirs in shops that are decorated festively for the holiday, and get to taste Christmas treats. 

The two-hour Light up the City Tour will take place on December 19, 20, 21, 22 and 25 at 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. The tour is appropriate for children age seven and up. 

Price: NIS 55

The Christmas Tour will take place on December 21, 23, 29 and 30 at 10 a.m. 

Afternoon tours will take place on December 12, 15, 27 at 5 p.m. 

Evening tours will take place on December 8, 14, 15, 20, 22, 24, 25, 27, 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. 

Price: NIS 80. The tour is appropriate for children age 12 and upRegistration: tod.org.il/events

2. Greater Modi’in region

The public is invited to attend the annual Hanukkah Festival in the greater Modi’in region, during which people can use their imagination to bring the Maccabees back to life. Guests can approach the information station located at the entrance of the Maccabean tombs to hear explanations of all the activities, including free guided tours, during which they will solve riddles about the mysterious tombs. 

There will also be guided tours in Tel Hadid, in which participants will get to view remains of the ancient Hasmonean fortress. There will also be fun archaeology-related activities in the Libyan Jewry parking area near the Ben-Shemen Forest. They include hands-on excavation workshops and a fire safety presentation on a Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund fire truck. 

There will be a family navigation game with prizes at the Maccabean tombs, and Neot Kedumim will be holding a Back to the Land of the Hasmoneans Tour, as well as Only Light Can Drive Out Darkness Tours in the evening. 

Dates: December 18-26Details: www.thm.org.il

3. Ben-Gurion House

People visiting Ben-Gurion House in Sde Boker this Hanukkah, will get to tour the first prime minister’s house at nighttime and see how David and Paula Ben-Gurion lived. All the lights will be turned off, and participants will use lanterns to meander through the house. 

Visitors can also participate in a Heritage Week program during which they will learn about and sing Hebrew songs, as well as write a song about Ben-Gurion House together with a songwriter. 

There will be separate “quiet” hours for visitors with special needs, for which preregistration is required. 

Dates: December 18-26Price: NIS 20 for adults; NIS 15 for childrenRegistration: (08) 656-0469; www.ben-gurion.co.il

4. Forest by lantern

Enjoy evening Hanukkah lantern tours for the whole family in KKL-JNF forests around the country. Tours will take place each evening of Hanukkah, during which participants will get to feel what it’s like to move around the forest at night, hear stories about heroes, fairy tales and mesmerizing urban legends. At the end of the tour, there will be a communal Hanukkah candle-lighting, after which guests can enjoy hot herbal tea. 

The two-and-a-half-hour tour is appropriate for children age five and up.

Price: NIS 10Registration: 1-800-350-550; salkkl.kkl.org.il/Tours/ToursSearch.aspx

5. Meshek 77

Moshav Tekuma’s Meshek 77 invites families with small children to take part in a fascinating agricultural experience that includes a tour of greenhouses where pineapple, bananas, raspberries and strawberries are grown. Visitors will learn how to plant strawberry seedlings, make strawberry tea, ride on a wagon led by a tractor, scramble up a climbing wall and jump around inside a bounce house.

Dates: December 19-23 and 25-26, from 10 a.m. Price: From NIS 20Details: Shikma Basor website

6. Sdot Negev Olive Festival

The Sdot Negev Regional Council will wrap up the last day of Hanukkah with its Olive Festival, during which visitors will learn how olive oil is produced. There will be food stalls, tours of the olive press, and a number of workshops, such as olive oil preparation; pita on tabun; ceramics; painting and wood. 

Date: December 26, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Location: The Olive Press, Moshav YoshivyaPrice: NIS 15

7. Gan Hashlosha (Sakhne)

At Gan Hashlosha, the temperature of the water in the natural spring remains at a constant 28° Celsius all year long.

During the Hanukkah holiday, the Museum of Regional and Mediterranean Archaeology, which is located in the Gan Hashlosha National Park, will be open to the public. Visitors can view an exhibition featuring reconstructed towers from Israel’s early Tower and Stockade period, huts where the Jewish immigrants lived, a kitchen, dining hall and agricultural tools they used to settle the land. Visitors can dress up in work clothes like the ones pioneers wore, and get to try to launder clothes on old washboards like they used in the olden days.

In the archaeology wing, visitors can view tools that were used during Hanukkah in ancient times. Children and parents can join a Ceramic and Candle Adventure, during which they will discover ancient candles and rare ceramic jugs. 

Dates: The week of Hanukkah, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Price: NIS 39 for adults; NIS 24 for children (ages five to 14)Registration: (04) 658-1017; [email protected] 

8. Eshkolot 

During the week of Hanukkah, Eshkolot will be holding a number of tours around the country, in which participants will learn about the heroes of the NILI spy ring, Judah Maccabee, the last remaining Jew in Peki’in, as well as figures who lived in Jerusalem in ancient times. 

One of the tours will take place in the Gilboa, during which participants will hear biblical stories about Gideon and King Saul. Another tour will take you to Nahal Shiloh and Mount Rafid, during which you will learn about how the Jews lived there during the Second Temple period, and the battle between the Maccabees and the Greeks in Ma’aleh Levona.

A third tour will take you to Peki’in. The tour will begin at a lookout, then continue to the grave of Shimon Bar Yochai who, according to legend, hid there from the Romans. The tour continues with a description of the Druze community living in Peki’in and all around northern Israel, and ends at the ancient Peki’in synagogue.

Dates: December 21 & 22Price: NIS 10, or NIS 40 per familyRegistration: 053-468-3128

Translated by Hannah Hochner.