Events in Israel

Israel’s events calendar is packed with exciting things to see and do. Some of the best events Israel has are held during national holidays like Hanukkah in December, Purim in March, Passover in April/May, and Sukkot in September/October. Special holiday events include costume parties during Purim and the lighting of an eight-candle menorah during Hanukkah week.

Annual events in Tel Aviv include the exciting White Nights when there are street parties throughout the night; the Tel Aviv Eat culinary festival, and the art and design festival, Fresh Paint. If you’re interested in events in Jerusalem, check out the Festival of Lights when the Old City is lit up with light installations; the Jerusalem Wine Festival, and the multi-disciplinary Israel Festival. Other top events in Israel include the multi-faith Holiday of Holidays in Haifa, and the Karmiel Dance Festival.

Sports enthusiasts will love the Tel Aviv Night Run; the Dead Sea Marathon, and the Jerusalem Marathon. There are regular basketball games and football matches in large venues. Music events in Israel include the Jazz Festival in Eilat; the Midburn Festival in the Negev, and the Klezmer Festival in Safed. Christians can enjoy the Palm Sunday Procession, and the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. Jewish visitors should attend services at the Western Wall, and Muslim tourists can experience the Eid al-Fitr celebrations and prayers on Temple Mount.


Sports in Israel

Sports in ancient Israel are mentioned in the Bible although some practised by Egyptians and Greeks were condemned by the sages for involving pagan practises. But others were definitely ‘kosher’ e.g. running. Although sport was not supposed to detract away from the idea of studying the Torah (Jewish Bible), there are dissenting ideas. Rabbi Kook, for instance, argued: "When the holy people will be physically firm and strong, holiness will prevail in the world.” The theatre in Caesarea is also evidence that sports were popular, back in the day.Kitesurfing in the Red Sea, Israel. Photo by Raimond Klavins on UnsplashMajor sports in Modern Day IsraelThe sports tradition in more modern times has continued, particularly with football which first came to the Holy Land under Ottoman rule. In 1928, the Palestinian Football Association was formed and the British Mandate of Palestine national team played Egypt in 1934 in a World Cup qualifying game (they lost - and badly!) After the creation of the State of Israel, they were renamed as the national team of Israel and their first match as an independent nation was against the US Olympic Team. So what are the most popular sports in Israel? Well, we’d have to say football and basketball for starters.Israel’s Premier League was started in 1999, and today is a member of UEFA. The national stadium, first located in Ramat Gan, was where games were originally held but today games are usually played at Bloomfield Stadium, in Tel Aviv. Football (soccer), arguably, is Israel’s national sport today, just edging out basketball in the popularity stakes. ‘Ligat Ha Al’ - the Israeli Basketball Premier League - makes up the top 12 basketball teams in Israel and was set up in 1954. It is well-known in Europe and in recent years they have had more links with the NBA in North America.Surfers at Alma Beach in Tel Aviv.Photo by Zoltan Tasi on UnsplashThere are also many other sports that are popular in Israel - swimming, rowing, tennis, chess, boxing, figure skating, and gymnastics. Golf is a relatively new sport in Israel but there is a full-sized course in Caesarea. Baseball became more popular in the 1990s, and today there’s a very successful ‘Baseball for All’ program running in Israel, which encourages Jewish and Arab Israeli students in 6th grade to play together three times a year. Indeed, Israel was only just pipped to the post (by the Netherlands) in the European Baseball Championship in September 2021.Martial arts are very much enjoyed, particularly Krav Maga (a self-defense and fighting system, developed by the Israel Defence Force). There’s also Kapap - a ‘fusion of different fighting styles like boxing, judo, jiu-jitsu, and knife combat. Extreme sports in Israel are also becoming more popular. Whether you want to rappel down the side of the Ramon Crater, a canyon in the Golan Heights, or sandboard in the dunes of the Negev desert, there’s a tour for it. The bicycle race Giro d'Italia in Israel.Photo by Yoav Aziz on UnsplashWater Sports in IsraelWith its fabulous Mediterranean coastline, the Sea of Galilee, and the beautiful Red Sea besides. Israel is a paradise for anyone who loves water sports. Diving - there’s no better place to dive than Eilat, with its clear waters, stunning coral reef, and shoals of brightly colored tropical fish. For beginners, there are authorized PADI courses available and for more experienced divers Eilat Coral Beach is a great spot to explore. For those nervous about going underwater, it’s also fun to snorkel. Jet skiing - available both in Eilat and the Sea of Galilee, either take a trip out with an instructor or rent your own! Trust us, it’s an extremely exciting experience. Stand Up Paddle Boarding - this sport is growing in popularity - these boards look much like surfboards but are infinitely more stable, so you move around without tipping over precariously. Ideal for exploring on flat water, you’ll see both locals and tourists out on the Mediterranean, enjoying themselves in this way.Sea Kayaking - If you want to go out on open waters such as lakes, bays, or the Mediterranean Sea in Israel, Because they are long and narrow, they’re great for negotiating waters. Sailing - it’s easy to hire a yacht in Israel and spend a few hours on the sea, topped off with a wonderful sunset. Clubs in Tel Aviv and Herzliya rent out vessels from a few hours to a week...so get set!Swimming in the Jordan River, Israel. Photo credit:© Jenny EhrlichBeach Sports in IsraelMatkot - this is, unofficially, Israel’s national beach sport and much loved by the locals. It’s a wooden paddleboard game, where two players smash the ping pong-sized ball back and forth and observers hope they don’t lose an eye when the ball goes astray!Beach Volleyball - also very popular in Tel Aviv.On summer Saturday mornings in particular, at Gordon Beach, you’ll see plenty of young, attractive people (dressed in very little) getting fit, by way of the free courts there.Sports Events and Festivals in IsraelThere are so many to choose from, it’s hard to know where to begin but here are a few we can’t resist mentioning...The Maccabiah Games are held every four years - essentially it’s a quadrennial Jewish Olympics, bringing together the most promising Jewish athletes from around the world. First held in 1932, It is the third-largest sporting event in the world, with 10,000 athletes competing and hosts open, junior, master, and disabled events.The games were named after Judah Maccabee, a Jewish leader who defended his country from King Antiochus. Today, the torch that lights the flame at the opening ceremony takes place in Modiin, his birthplace. The Maccabiah Games recognizes all 28 current Olympic sports, as well as chess, netball, and cricket! Women in Yoga Project, Israel. Photo by Mor Shani on UnsplashTel Aviv MarathonUsually taking place in February, this is a huge event, both for locals in Tel Aviv and runners around Israel. Over 40,000 people have been participating in the last years and because Tel Aviv is quite compact, the marathon passes through many parts of it. Starting in the north, at Yarkon Park and culminating in the south, in Jaffa, it’s a great day out, either as a participant or just a spectator.Jerusalem MarathonTaking place a month after Tel Aviv’s marathon, in March, back in 2013 Women’s Running Magazine this was chosen as one of the top 10 international spring running events worldwide. And whilst Tel Aviv is very flat, Jerusalem is incredibly hilly so this is a very challenging marathon, even for experienced runners. The good news is you can choose the length of your run - and the astonishing views of Jerusalem are to die for. Because it takes place at the beginning of spring, weather conditions are also good. Have a look at this video, to see for yourself.Beach volleyball in Tel Aviv, Israel.Photo by Kai Pilger on UnsplashFrom North to South - Marathons Across IsraelThere are also many more marathons in Israel, held in all parts of the country. There’s one in the Dead Sea, where you’re literally running the lowest race on earth! The Sea of Galilee event is the oldest of its kind in Israel (45 years old) and has a flat course. The Crane Race, in the Hula Valley, offers a variety of marathons (half, 19k, 5k, and family events) around Hula Lake, where you can see thousands of cranes migrating. And let’s not forget the ‘Volcano Run’ in the Golan Heights. Beginning in Mount Hermon and ending at the Yarmuk River, you can enjoy running up and down five peaks, past a dormant volcano and breathtaking views. Probably not for the fainthearted! The desert marathon is held in Eilat, beginning in the desert and ending on the shores of the Red Sea. The Bible marathon recreates a run mentioned in the Bible, with its starting point at Rosh Ha’ayin (once Eben Exer) and ending at Shiloh (an ancient Сity of the Tabernacle). And let’s not forget the Arad-Masada race - beginning in the desert and ending at the foot of Masada, it’s renowned for its ‘afterparty rave’. After all, isn’t a dance party the perfect way to end this kind of race!People exercising on sports ground in Tel Aviv, Israel.Photo credit: © Jenny EhrlichTel Aviv Night RunHeld annually in October, this 10k race is fantastic fun - and unique in Israel because it’s held at night. It’s a tradition for anyone who runs to wear neon clothes (pink, yellow, green), and anyone over 14 can sign up. The route is completely urban and with thousands of people cheering on the runners, it’s a fantastic experience. It begins at Rabin Square, Rothschild Boulevard, down trendy Dizengoff, and into the finish area at Yarkon Park. Oh - and then there’s an all-night celebratory party with music and dancing - Tel Aviv style!Sail Tel AvivSail Tel Aviv is Israel’s largest maritime sports activity, and runs from between two to four days, usually in the spring, celebrating all things to do with the sea. Held next to the beach, it’s free for the public and involves many different kinds of competitions and activities. Come and look at the sand sculptures and the photography exhibitions, grab a bite, listen to some music. If you’re brave, you can even sign up for the open experience day with SUP, kayak rowing, and boat sailing! Israman Eilat and Ironman TiberiasA full & half Iron-Distance Triathlon takes place in Eilat, in January and another arduous one in Tiberias, by the Sea of Galilee, in November. So if you’re up for swimming, biking, and running, you know where to go!Skaters in Tel Aviv. Photo byYoav AzizonUnsplashSovev Tel Aviv Bike FestivalUsually taking place in October, around the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Sovev Cycle Tel Aviv offers the participant three different routes - the 8km (for beginners and family), the 21 km (for anyone in good shape), the 40 km route (if you’re experienced) and the 60km (for masters of the sport!) Bara Epic IsraelTaking place in northern Israel, between the Crusader city of Acre and the Sea of Galilee, this event is designed for avid mountain bikers! The race routes change annually, to make sure long-term participants never get bored (!) and range from 75 to 100 km per day. It’s all very challenging, with the idea to finish within a designated time limit. If you like spectacular scenery and something to test your stamina, this is an ‘epic’ choice! Here’s a short video, to give you a taste of how exciting it is.Israel RideThis great fundraising ride, where all proceeds benefit environmental charities, takes place in the Arava desert and lasts 5 days. Whether you’re an experienced cyclist or want a more ‘recreational’ experience, there’s a route for you. The crew supporting you organize local accommodation, hearty food, and a chance to learn about the ecology of the area, and the challenges environmentalists there face. Shabbat is a day off too, so you’ll get to spend some quality time with your fellow riders. Old and young are equally welcome too.Skiing in Mount Hermon, Israel.Photo credit: © Evgeny BrizeliWheels of LoveThis charity cycling event takes place in southern Israel, often in the Arava desert, and whether you choose the three or four-day routes (the offroad is a little more challenging) the monies you raise will help an incredible cause - ALYN, which is a Jerusalem Hospital caring for children and adolescents. Mud Run Tel AvivFor those who are looking for a bit of levity, there’s nothing more fun than the Mud Run. Beginning at Ganei Yehoshua in Yarkon Park, you can challenge each other in an obstacle race of either 2, 5, or 10 km, and very few finish in a clean state. As the organizers say ‘Get Ready to get dirty!’Among other major sports in Israel are martial arts, sport fishing, and sky sports.Finally, Bein Harim is happy to help if you want to join a private or group day tour, whilst taking part in a sports event in Israel. Feel free to contact us, by phone or mail, to talk more about your needs. We’ll be delighted to help.
By Sarah Mann

Music of Israel

Israel is a long way from its 100th birthday but in the last century, all kinds of influences have combined to create a very diverse and unique musical culture in the country. From enthusiastic amateur singers, cabarets, and small choral societies in the 1920s, to the establishment of the Israeli Philharmonic after the state was created, stretching onto the 1990s, when almost a million Russians emigrated to Israel, many of them excellent musicians, the music scene has been popular!Amusician playing bass guitar at a concert, Israel.Photo by Anton Mislawsky on UnsplashToday, Israeli opera, jazz, and pop music are also forces to be reckoned with, so if you’re traveling to Israel, you can be sure of finding a ticket to something very exciting. Moreover, not just Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa but many other cities and small towns sponsor their own choirs and hold annual music festivals in Israel. Whether it’s a small recital, a full-scale symphony performance, Madonna performing in Yarkon Park,an Israeli folk singer giving a concert in the restored Roman theater at Caesarea, you can be sure of finding incredible musical performances the length and breadth of the country.What Defines Israeli Music?So, what are the characteristics of Israeli music? That’s a hard question to answer! There are all kinds of global influences, for sure - including Russian folk songs, Eastern European Klezmer band traditions, Yemenite ballads, Hasidic melodies, and, of course, the enormous influence that Arabic music has had. And that’s before you even begin to factor in Greek, Ethiopian, central European, and Latin American influences. Of course, that’s to be expected - after all, if Israel is the ultimate melting pot, then why should its musical heritage be any different? Since immigrants began arriving in the Holy Land at the turn of the 20th century, they have been looking for ways not just to express themselves but also to define the ‘national spirit’. This has resulted in a wealth of talent - whether it’s classical, jazz, folk ballads, or pop and rock, the music scene in Israel is incredibly diverse.Beautiful old violin on a red tablecloth, Israel. Photo by Leonid Portnoy on UnsplashNational Musical Instruments of Israel:The history of musical instruments in Israel is a long and rich one. It is fair to say that music played an integral part in the local culture - cymbals and tambourines were used to celebrate joyful occasions, lyres and harps were played at royal concerts, and trumpets were sounded to remind people of momentous events and to celebrate victories.Several musical instruments in ancient Israel are specifically mentioned in the Bible, whilst others are referenced in historical manuscripts. These include: kinnor - this ancient Jewish lyre is also known as King David’s harp since it is the instrument the famous Israelite played. It is Israel’s national instrument and a spiritual instrument for Christians. The Roman Jewish historian Josephus describes the kinnor as having 10 strings, constructed out of a sheep's small intestine, and played with a plectrum (pick). However, the book of Samuel in the Hebrew Bible states that David played the kinnor "with his hand".Shofar - shaped like a horn, this Hebrew trumpet was blown to summon people to prayer, war, or solemn ceremonies. It was also blown by the Cohen priests to mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year and the tradition continues in synagogues around the world today, each Rosh HaShanah.David Playing the Harp Before Saul, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe shofar is mentioned several times in the Bible. These include the book of Joshua, where the blowing of the shofar was part of the battle to capture the city of Jericho, and in the book of Judges, where it was sounded by Gideon and his warriors in order to terrify the opposing army. Shofars are made out of ram’s horns and, indeed, make a powerful sound (almost like a blast) when blown.Oud - this stringed musical instrument was played regularly in medieval times and is still popular today, in Islamic culture. It is the parent of the European lute, usually with 11 strings grouped in six courses. It has a deep, pear-shaped body, a relatively short neck, and a fretless fingerboard. In Arabic, it means something close to ‘wood stick’ or ‘flexible stick’. It is still played today at traditional music concerts in Israel and the Middle East.Kanun - this stringed instrument can be played either solo or as part of an ensemble and its origins go back to before the birth of Christ. Also part of the lute family. Arabic kanuns are usually made with five skin insets that support a single long bridge, resting on five arching pillars. They have ornamental sound holes called kafes and are played sitting or squatting, plucking the strings with tortoiseshell picks.Darbuka - this goblet-shaped percussion instrument is still widely played in Islamic classical and folk music throughout North Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Lutes, flutes, and bells were also commonly used in biblical times. Daniel, the prophet of Jehovah, wrote of the orchestra of King Nebuchadnezzar - their instruments actually included the pipe, the zither, and the bagpipe!Oud, the traditional musical instrument of Israel, similar to modern lutes. Photo by Youssef Abdelwahab on UnsplashThe History of Music in IsraelMusic has always been an integral part of the country, beginning with the pioneers who arrived from Russia and Europe. As they built the land, they were encouraged to sing - and in groups. Public ‘sing-a-longs were a popular pastime, especially in the kibbutz, because many of the leaders of the day thought it would promote the ‘national spirit.’Today, Israelis young and old still love to sing these songs - particularly out on hikes and sitting around bonfires. This mixture of patriotism and nostalgia for the early days of the state is something many visitors to the country really do find fascinating and touching.Musical cabarets in the 1920s and Aliyah in the 1930sCabarets became popular in British Mandate Palestine in the 1920s and were responsible for the fame of quite a few artists, including Shoshana Damari (a famous Yemenite singer who began her career at ‘Li La Lo’ in Tel Aviv - a cabaret that revolved around drama and satire.By the 1930s, the political tide was turning and the rise of fascism meant Jews were no longer safe in Germany and wider Europe. Many fled and some of them arrived in Palestine - and the country gained an orchestra as a result. In 1936, the Israeli Palestine Philharmonic made its debut, under the leadership of Arthur Toscanini. (Shortly after, a radio orchestra was set up (today it is known as the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra) and the concerts it broadcasted were soon attracting tens of thousands of listeners).Since 1948, the Israeli Philharmonic has gone from strength to strength and is now recognized on the global stage. It even rises above politics from time to time - in the 1980s it performed on the Israel-Lebanon border, playing to audiences on both sides of the fence, who had come to enjoy the concert!Evgeny Zlatin, an Israeli pianist, Jerusalem Academy of Music. Сourtesy photoThe Israeli Conservatory of MusicOne of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in Israel, this Tel Aviv Conservatory was founded in 1943 and serves today as a center to nurture the talent of young musicians in Israel. It boasts a music library, a state-of-the-art concert hall, and a separate wing for opera and chamber music classes.The Jerusalem Academy of Music and DanceThe Conservatory is one of three institutions that make up the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. It offers all kinds of educational programs in music for students from preschool through to graduate level in Israel.What Kind of Music Will I Hear in Israel?If you travel around Israel, you’ll hear all types of music - in the open-air markets, in restaurants, on the local and intercity buses (Israeli drivers love to sing and play music whilst they’re on the road!), in religious services, national ceremonies and just on the streets in different neighborhoods.These musical genres range from ‘Eastern’ (meaning that which originated in Arab-speaking societies), Hasidic (religious music which has its origins in Eastern Europe, especially Poland), Iraqi Jewish music, Ladino songs (which began in Spanish-speaking societies), Yiddish (secular in origin, and often part of ‘Klezmer’ bands) Israeli-Arab (with an emphasis on long, melodic notes) and modern-day Israeli pop.Daria Zlatina, an Israeli pianist, Jerusalem Academy of Music. Сourtesy photoMizrahi - in Hebrew ‘mizrach’ means ‘east’ and this kind, of music, is associated with Sephardic Jews. The movement began in the 1950s, with performances by locals in neighborhoods in which Jews from Arab countries mainly lived. They performed songs in Hebrew but in an Arabic style (on traditional instruments). By the 1970s, Mizrahi musicians like Avihu Medina and Zohar Argov had become very popular and, today, Mizrahi pop is the most common and prominent form of pop music in Israel.Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish music - the Hasidic movement began in the second half of the 18th century in Eastern Europe and placed a great emphasis on expressing joy through song and dance. Today, Hasidic music can be heard at simchas (celebrations) such as weddings and bat mitzvahs, as well as at the Rabbi’s table {the ‘tisch’).Hasidic music has a number of genres including niggunim - religious Jewish songs (or tune) sung in groups, often quite repetitive, using sounds such as “lai, lai, lai”, “bim-bim-bam” or “ai, ai, ai” instead of actual lyrics. Some can be woeful and others very joyful. Niggunim are central to worship in Hasidic Jews life, and a soulful reflection of how mystical intense prayer can be.Iraqi Jewish musicin Israel - in the 1930s, Iraqi musical groups were almost always Jewish! Today, in Israel, this continues in the form of beautiful Arab music, including love songs, folk chants, and traditional music.Tamar Eisenman, Israeli rock and folk singer and songwriter. Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinLadino music in Israel- Ladino was the language of the Spanish-speaking Jews, throughout medieval times, with music in the form of ballads sung by women in a dramatic style, either in private or during celebrations. Yiddish music in Israel - this kind of music is sung in the language of the Jews from the tiny villages of Eastern Europe - Yiddish, It includes songs from Yiddish theatre, Klezmer bands, and songs modeled on French melodies and German lieder. Klezmer dance tunes, ritual melodies, and virtuosic improvisations were often played at weddings. Today, Klezmer is making somewhat of a comeback and, in fact, an international Klezmer festival is due to be held in August 2022 in Jerusalem, featuring musicians from around the globe.Israeli Arab music - these melodious songs have become increasingly popular in the country in the last 20 years. One of the most popular on the scene is Ziv Yehezkel, who seems to have captured the hearts of Arabs in Israel. Now, after Israel’s signing of the Abraham Accords with Bahrain and the UAE, it’s quite likely to mean new inspiration for Arab music singers in Israel. Sarit Hadad, an Israeli mizrahi singer.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinSecular music in Israel - in recent years, many modern artists and pop singers from Israel have broken onto the scene, not just within the country but the wider international stage. Some of the more famous include: Etti Ankri - Born of Tunisian parents, this singer has become famous for her moving and emotional songs and is also called the ’contemporary voice of Israel’. Ofra Haza - an icon in Israel and known in the west as ‘the Israeli Madonna’ Haza became famous for her Yemenite songs and after representing Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest, her song ‘Im Nin'Alu’ itself became a Top 20 hit in the UK.Dana International - after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1988 with her hit song ‘Diva’, this once Drag Queen and proud transexual singer shot to fame and her songs were soon being played at every dance venue in Israel and every gay bar across Tel Aviv! Netta Barzilai - well known simply as ‘ Netta’ this singer shot to fame after winning an Israeli tv competition - her prize was to compete at the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon. There, in May 2018, she won the contest with her song ‘Toy.’Musicians performing atJerusalem Knights Festival, Israel. Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Easter in Jerusalem

For Christians, there is no doubt that Easter is the most spiritual holiday in their religious calendar - yes, it even trumps Christmas in the sacred stakes! Why? Because this is the time of the year that the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the son of God, is commemorated and celebrated. They last for a period of time known as ‘Holy Week’ commemorating the events before and after the crucifixion.Easter celebration.Photo by freestocks on UnsplashIn late March or early April each year (depending on the calendar), thousands of pilgrims from all denominations descend upon Jerusalem for a period like no other. Taking place within the walls of the Old City, and at the Garden Tomb (which is open for visits throughout Holy Week (8:30 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5:30 pm) they recreate scenes from the last week of Jesus’s life, culminating in a solemn procession on Good Friday and a great celebration on Easter Sunday. Let’s take a look at how the week unfolds and some of the rituals the make Easter in Jerusalem so special and moving for Christians…Palm SundayPalm Sunday always falls one week before Easter. It is the first day of’ ‘Holy Week’ and is a festival that commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. According to all of the Gospels, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was greeted by his followers who all waved palm branches to celebrate. Historically, the palm branch may have been a symbol of victory and triumph and the donkey seen as an animal of peace (not war, as would have been a horse).Today, in the Old City, pilgrims recreate this scene as part of the Jerusalem Palm Sunday Procession Tour Beginning at the Mount of Olives, descending into the Kidron Valley and Gethsemane Garden, pilgrims walk solemnly through the Lions' gate and into the Old City. They proceed along the Via Dolorosa where Jesus walked his last steps before arriving at the cross. All along you hear cries of ‘Hosanna’ from the crowds. The procession is led by leaders of the Catholic Patriarchate (in brown robes), the Latin Patriarch (in purple robes) and the Greek Archbishop (in black robes). All along the way, the route is lined with Christian pilgrims (both local and those who have travelled from across the world) reciting blessings and singing songs. It is a very colourful and interesting ceremony, which culminates at St. Anne’s Church.Palm Sunday Procession. Photo by Brady Leavell on UnsplashMaundy ThursdayMaundy Thursday is also known as Holy Thursday and its name derives from the Latin ‘mandatum’ which means ‘command’. This ties up with Jesus’ commandment to his disciples “Love one another, as I have loved you.” This day, in essence, commemorates three major events:1. It is the day Jesus and his disciples sat down to eat the Last Supper. During this meal, Jesus took bread and wine and shared them with everyone at the table. Today, Christians around the world of all denominations continue to use bread and wine in their services of worship (such as the Eucharist and Mass). 2. Furthermore, on Holy Thursday, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus washed the feet of his apostles. This act has different meanings - to show that as an important person, Jesus practised humility and love to others. Some Christians also regard it as a way of seeking reconciliation with someone before taking communion. Today, there is a traditional Washing of the Feet ceremony carried out in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.3. Finally, this is the day in which Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, after being betrayed by Judas. This was, for sure, a pivotal moment in Christianity.Today. In Jerusalem, pilgrims celebrate Maundy Thursday at the Room of the Last Supper (the Upper Room), located on Mount Zion. Some even hold an all-night vigil there, remembering Jesus’ hours in Gethsemane. In terms of the churches themselves, a Pontifical Mass (Supper of the Lord and Mass of the Chrism) is held at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre early in the morning. In the afternoon, in and around the Old City, there are pilgrimages from one church to another followed by services of the Washing of the Feet. Typically, the route of procession passes by the Church of All Nations, through the Lions' Gate, into the Old City and along the Via Dolorosa. All along the way, pilgrims sing songs in a number of languages and pray. Room of the Last Supper. Photo credit: © ShutterstockGood FridayGood Friday (also known as Holy Friday and Great Friday) is a very solemn - and incredibly important - day in the Christian calendar, marking the death of Jesus by crucifixion at Calvary (Golgotha). Many members of the various Christian denominations attend church services, abstain from eating meat and even fast. In the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican tradition, there is a service held between 12 and 3 pm, called ‘The Three Hour’s Agony’ (alluding to the hours Jesus was on the cross).In Jerusalem, each year, thousands of pilgrims descend on the Old City early in the morning, either to be part of the procession itself (tickets are numbered, limited and much sought after) or to pack the streets for a view. The procession itself is a recreation of the route Christ took, retracing his final steps on his way to the cross.The procession begins at the Mount of Olives, entering through the city walls and tracing its way along what is known as the Via Dolorosa (in Latin, ‘The Path of Sorrows’). Known as ‘the Way of the Cross’ it begins at 11.30 am at Station.1. The Stations of the Cross (14 in all, 8 en route and 6 in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) refer to various images relating to Christ’s journey and his suffering as he walked this path.Mount of Olives. Photo credit: © ShutterstockIn the Old City, many pilgrims carry wooden crosses, sing hymns as they walk and often stop to recite prayers at each station. This is to symbolically offer ‘reparations’ for the insults and suffering that Jesus had to endure on his last journey which is estimated to have lasted 1.5 km (from Gethsemane to Calvary). The atmosphere is solemn and charged - many Christians, afterwards, describe it as one of the most moving moments of their lives. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the service is broken down into several parts: the Liturgy of the Word (carried out in silence). The Great Intercessions, the Adoration of the Cross, Communion (or Mass). Within this time, the liturgy will also include readings of the Gospel Passion narrative. After the ‘Three Hour’s Agony’ service - between 12 midday and 3 pm - vespers are read, to commemorate the time Christ’s body was taken down from the cross.Traditionally, on Good Friday, many Christians in Jerusalem will not eat meat or even fast entirely (to show their sorrow), will not perform any work, including washing clothes, breaking ground or playing with children. Since сhurches of the Old City of Jerusalem are open for the entire day, some pilgrims will spend much of the evening or night in contemplative prayer.A pilgrim in Via Dolorosa. Photo credit: © ShutterstockHoly SaturdayFor Orthodox communities, this day is known as Holy Saturday (‘Saturday of Light’) and each year in Jerusalem, it is commemorated with a ceremony named the Holy Fire Ceremony. This is held in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - it is a popular ritual that is well attended by Christians from across the denominations.According to Orthodox tradition, at this time a blue light emanates from the tomb of Jesus and rises up from the marble slab (upon which his body was placed for burial). It is believed that the light forms a column of fire and, as a result, candles can be lit from it, both for the clergy and pilgrims in attendance. It is also thought that this ‘Holy Fire’ will not burn them and can be used to spontaneously light other candles and lamps in the church.In the darkness, the Patriarch kneels in front of the stone, and the crowd waits anxiously. When he emerges, with two candles lit, his audience breaks into applause and cheers with joy. The dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © ShutterstockEaster SundayThe final day of the Holy Week culminates in enormous celebrations - commemorating the day that Christ rose from the dead. In Jerusalem, celebrations begin early - at 7 am - with the entry of the Latin Patriarch into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. An hour later, the Mass of Resurrection is held and this includes a procession around the Rotunda. The service begins in darkness and one by one candles are lit. The Priest will state ‘ Christ is risen’ and the congregation will respond "He is risen indeed". All heads of the various Churches in Jerusalem will wear their brightest robes, in celebration, and bells will peal out. People pray individually and collectively. Protestants celebrate with an Easter sunrise service at the Garden Tomb.The week following Holy Week the Orthodox Christians (including Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian and Russian Orthodox) celebrate Easter with similar ceremonies and services. Without a doubt, if you are thinking of making a trip to Israel, a visit at this time of the year is highly encouraged. Springtime is beautiful in the Mediterranean and, combined with the rituals enacted in this special week, you will have the opportunity to witness something quite unique in Jerusalem - something that is sure to stay with you for the rest of your life.The best wat to visitholy Christian sites in Jerusalemis to join one ofChristian Day Tours.Inside the Church of Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

Food and Drink Festivals in Israel

Food is always a highlight of any trip to Israel; the country has delicious locally created dishes and many international imports brought to the Holy Land by immigrants. Wine has been produced in Israel since Biblical times and the rich soil and varied terrains provide nourishing earth for the local vineyards. If you are lucky enough to be in Israel during one of these food and beverage festivals then you will have the opportunity to sample some of the country’s best cuisine.Chefs for Peace Food EventThis festival was established by a group of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish chefs who want to promote peace by bringing people together over a meal. Using food as a common language they hold events throughout the country and sometimes internationally. At these events, you can taste dishes prepared by the chefs and help support their worthy cause. The aim of the Chefs for Peace is to promote understanding and coexistence between the different cultures in the region and hopefully reduce conflict. The chefs see food as the universal means of encountering new cultures. In the past Chefs for Peace events have been held in many countries like Norway, Canada, Italy and most often in Israel. Check out their list of upcoming events on the Chefs for Peace website.So French So Good, FebruaryFor the fourth year running So French, So Good is putting the spotlight on French cuisine with the help of 28 restaurants and 4 bakeries from around the country. This culinary festival is presented by Israeli chefs and bakeries in collaboration with French chefs to create French/Israeli fusion dishes. The festival is run by the French Embassy in Israel and is held at the beginning of February (February 8-10, 2016). For the 2016 festival one of the participants was Chef Laurent Azoulay, a Michelin-star chef from L’Ekrin restaurant in Meribel, ski resort in the French Alps who joined Meir Adoni of the BlueSky restaurant and judge on one of Israel’s cooking reality shows. Other chefs who have joined together for the festival are Chef Michel Sarran (Michelin rated) from Toulouse who worked together with Israeli Chef Moran Yanai who has his restaurant in Hotel Montefiore. By pairing up French chefs with Israeli chefs many amazing new creations are produced. The ideas and culinary customs of the French and Israeli culture come together to create a unique food. In the 2016 festival chefs came from Acre, Tiberias, Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv. While the international side of the equation was filled in by chefs like Ridha Khadher of the Au Paradis du Gourmand in Paris, Guillaume Gomez, head chef of the Presidential Palace Elysee and Stephane Leger of Archange restaurant in Saint Raphael. The festival will be held in restaurants across the country where the specially created menus will be on offer. In addition to the French culinary delights there are also screenings of food-related films at the French Institute in Tel Aviv, cookery classes at the Sheraton Tel Aviv and French alcohol tasting.Shokoland Chocolate Festival, FebruaryTel Aviv’s chocolate festival is held for three days at the historic Old Station complex – HaTachana. The country’s top chocolatiers come together to present a huge range of chocolates At the festival there are also cooking demonstrations, chocolate making demonstrations, chocolate displays, chocolate tastings, chocolate ice-creams, chocolate sculptures, chocolate fondue and even chocolate beer. The countries chocolate boutique stores will treating you to delicious chocolate in all shapes, flavors and colors.Diner en Blanc , Junehe concept behind this culinary event is to bring people together across a table to share a meal. The dinner is held the night before Tel Aviv’s famous Tel Aviv White Nights when the city’s restaurants, clubs and some stores stay open until the early hours of the morning. 2016 will be the 3rd annual Diner en Blanc event and about 500 people will take part. The location of this pop-up event is only announced an hour before the dinner to people who have previously registered online. Participants need to bring their own white table, white chairs and picnic basket full of delicious food. Dinner in White is an elegant and sophisticated event held in up to 60 locations around the world. The whole event is decorated in white with white table cloths, decorations and balloons. The participants are asked to attend wearing only white clothes. While eating their dinner there is live entertainment and dancing. The event is quiet exclusive with “friends bring friends” so you can’t really get an invitation unless you know someone who is already involved. There are also quite a lot of rules about etiquette and decorum at the event.Taste of Tel Aviv Food Festival ,JuneTel Aviv has literally thousands of restaurants from gourmet fine dining establishments to hole-in-the-wall humus places. You won’t be able to sample all that the city’s restaurants have to offer but you can do pretty well if you attend this festival held in the spring. Some of Israel’s most renowned chefs participate as well as many restaurants from the city. Each restaurant sets up a stall in the festival and offers a selection of food from their menu all at a drastically reduced price. The idea is to bring gourmet food to the general public at affordable prices. The festival is the largest food festival in the country and is visited by over a million people each year (making a profit of over a million dollars). Restaurants offer a tasting menu for a set discount price. Dates for the next festival have yet to be announced but it is usually held in Ganei Yehoshua (HaYarkon Park), Tel Aviv.Herzliya Marina Beer Festival ,JulyThe Herzliya Marina is a great place to visit even if you miss the festival; a large up-market mall faces the marina where yachts are docked along the edge of a wide expansive deck and plaza. This is where the festival is held, out in the open on long summer nights. The festival presents a wide variety of beers as well as a beer-brewing competition. While sipping beer and enjoying the sea breeze visitors are entertained by live performances by top Israeli artists.Chef, Eat!JulyUnlike other food festivals this one does not have one location or even one date; it is held in several restaurants across Jerusalem a number of times a year. Participating restaurants offer a two course meal at a discount price. Guests get a starter and main course for under 100ILS plus they can add a few extra shekels for dessert.Jerusalem Wine Festival, August2016 was the 13th year for this annual festival. It is Israel’s largest wine festival and features wine tastings, food stalls, workshops and live musical performances. The Israel Museum hosts this beverage event which feels a lot more cultural because of its surroundings than other alcohol festivals do. The event is held in the grounds of the museum where there are several sculptures and works of art. The festival celebrates Israeli wines and snacks are on offer while live music plays in the background. Approximately 60 Israeli wineries are represented offering over 100 different types of wine. In 2016 20,000 people are expected to attend. At the festival you can buy bottles of the Israeli wines to take home.Jerusalem Beer Festival, AugustThis is perhaps the biggest and most important annual beer event in Israel. Over the course of two days the festival is open from sundown until midnight and sees about 20,000 guests. 2016 will be the 11th year for the annual festival. In the past it has been held in the historic Old Train Station complex and at Gan HaAtzmut. At the event Israeli breweries set up stalls offering a taste of their brew. There are over 150 beers offered each year from large and micro-breweries including international labels. You have the opportunity to sample beer from Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Japan and more. There are even some unusual beers like banana infused beer. In addition to the beer guests will be entertained by live musical performances and the beer is accompanied by a great selection of food. There will also be beer making demonstrations and an arts and craft market. In 2015 tickets cost 40ILS.Around the World in Rishon LeZion, AugustThe world food fair (Yarid Colinari, Ta’am Olami) offers a taste of cuisine from countries around the globe and entrance is free. The festival is held in the 140 dunam Shikma Park along the avenue of palm trees and on the lawns of the park. Ten zones of the world are created featuring large models of the country’s landmarks; the country or region’s traditional foods as well as other cultural elements like national costume, traditional folk dancing and the local music. On the lawns of the park will be a Greek-style tavern selling beers, cocktails and wine from around the world. In the same area here will be a special section for cheeses from around the world and those entering the area where alcohol is sold will have to show ID to prove they are over 18. In the past the countries represented were America, France, Italy, Lebanon, China, Morocco, Greece, Russia and India.The Kosher Taste of the City, AugustIsraeli cuisine faces the unique challenge of contending with kosher law – no mixing of meat and milk; no seafood; no fish without scales and fins; meat must be from specific animals, slaughtered in a specific manner and prepared in a specific way. This is one of the rare festivals where kosher-observant Jews can enjoy the food on offer. The event is held on the Hof Argmon promenade in Natanya where kosher restaurants present their dishes for a small price (usually under 80ILS). Kitchenware is sold at the festival and there are a number of activities including kid’s entertainment and life musical performances. The festival lasts 10 days and about 50 kosher gourmet restaurants participate.Taste of the Galilee Food Festival, September/OctoberThis annual event is held in the Galilee region of northern Israel at Montfort Lake Park and select locations in the region usually during the Sukkot holidays. The festival features music, workshops, shows, children’s activities and foods produced and grown in the Galilee region. Cafes, restaurants and kibbutzim will be participating and presenting themed menus. The festival highlights the culinary world of northern Israel, the rich farm produce and cottage industry food products as well as the Galilee’s famous wines. Entrance is free to Montfort Lake Park where you can relax on the lawns between meals, rent pedal boats on the lake and enjoy the live performances in the evening. The festival opens in the park at noon and continues until sundown when the shows begin.Taybeh Oktoberfest, OctoberTaybeh is a small Christian village in Palestine’s West Bank surrounded by the majority Muslim communities. Although the Muslim majority prohibits alcohol for religious reasons the Christians of Taybeh have managed to keep one of the oldest trades in the Holy Land alive. Here the municipality has collaborated with the local brewery since 2005 in holding the West Banks only beer festival. The festival has gone from strength to strength and draws in approximately 16,000 visitors each year for the two day festival. The event boosts the local economy and has put the small village of Taybeh on the international map. The Taybeh Brewing Company’s beer is drunk in countries around the world and they have recently added wine to their product list. The wine is called “Nadim” and is produced in the company’s new winery which is beneath a boutique hotel built specifically to accommodate visitors to the brewery, winery and festival.Visiting the festival supports local businesses and helps to bring stability to this area of the country where life always seems to be in flux. The festival is usually held on the first Saturday and Sunday of October but exact dates for 2016 have not yet been announced. At the festival local music groups perform as well as international guest artists. Performances are in several venues and there are also local arts and crafts on sale as well as village tours, a small museum, a Taybeh beer tour and exhibitions held at the Society for the Preservation of Christian Heritage Historical Center of Taybeh. At past festivals there have been street hockey games, Henna body painting, prayer services in the three local churches, folklore dancing performances, stand-up comedy performances, a children’s program, karate demonstrations and a lottery. You can also buy local products like olive oil and honey. The festival helps to promote a different side of Palestine to that perceived on the international news.A-Sham - Arab Food Festival of Haifa, December2016 was the first year for Israel’s Arab Food Festival. The festival looks to become an annual event and features 25 chefs, Jewish, Christian and Muslim from across the country. Arabic delicacies are created by chefs of all faiths in Israel, there are no borders or political conflict when it comes to Israel’s culinary community. Haifa is the perfect city to host this festival as citizens of all faiths share the city and mostly live in harmony side-by-side. The Holiday of Holidays is an annual event when Hanukah, Christmas and Eid al-Fitr are celebrated together by events held throughout the city. The Arab Food Festival is now a part of the annual Holiday of Holidays events. The festival was the idea of Arab Israeli chef Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, the winner of Israel’s 2014 reality show Master Chef (and also a microbiologist). The festival highlights traditional Arabic cuisine which is fast disappearing from the local culinary landscape. The Levantine kitchen is presented in a number of variations to show the cultural context of these dishes and the traditional lifestyles. Many of the traditional Arabic dishes are very labor intensive and many are associated with specific events like religious festivals, weddings and celebrating a new born. Among the traditional Arabic foods on offer there is hilbe, commonly eaten by Yemeni Jews and made out of fenugreek seeds; habisa, a black and white dessert sweetened with carob juice and haroumanieh, eggplant and green lentils prepared in pomegranate juice. Those wanting to enjoy the amazing Arabic foods on offer only need to pay 35ILS (2015 price); you then receive a map of 25 restaurants offering the festival dishes and you can set off to taste them at the various eateries. There are a number of additional festival events including a workshop given by Christian Orthodox Arab women of how to prepare traditional Christmas cookies; tastings of Galilee olive oil, honey, almonds and carob syrup and panel discussions.
By Petal Mashraki

Purim in Israel

If you’re lucky enough to be in Israel during Purim you will enjoy the festive atmosphere, parties, fancy dress and parades. Purim is perhaps the most joyous Jewish holiday. Purim in Israel occurs in March or April – the date changes each year as it is determined by the Hebrew lunar calendar and not the Gregorian calendar. Although Purim is a Jewish holiday it is not observed like a Shabbat in Israel and businesses and attractions have regular open hours. Purim is a normal working day in Israel although it is a school holiday. Purim in Israel is celebrated by secular and religious Jews alike.What is Purim?Purim Purim celebrates an event in Jewish history which is told in the Biblical Book of Esther. In about 357 BC the king of Persia, Ahasuerus scoured the land for the most beautiful women to make his wife. The woman chosen was Esther, cousin and ward of Mordechai. Esther was forced to marry the king but she hid the fact that she was Jewish. Shortly afterwards Mordechai heard of a plot to assassinate the king and he had it reported and stopped.Meanwhile the villain of this story, Haman was appointed Prime Minister and he undertook to get rid of all the Jews. He had them draw “lots” (Pur in Hebrew, hence the name of the holiday) to decide the day of their annihilation. Hearing of Haman’s plansMordechai sent a message to Esther asking her to appeal to the king for mercy for the Jewish people.That night the king could not sleep and so he sat up reading from the Royal Chronicles. Here he read of the time Mordechai saved him from an assassination attempt. In the meantime Haman had decided to haveMordechai hung for not bowing before him. So Haman had gallows erected and went to the king to ask permission to hang Mordechai. The king asked Haman how such a loyal man should be honored. Haman, thinking the king was referring to him said the man should be dressed in fine clothes and led on horseback through the streets. The king ordered Haman to give Mordachai this honor. Although furious Haman had no choice but to follow the king’s orders.How is Purim Celebrated in Israel?Next Ester appealed to the king, told him of Haman’s plan and asked for mercy on her nation. The king ordered Haman hung from the gallows that had been built for Mordechai and Mordechai was made Prime Minister. Although the king’s decree could not be rescinded he gave the Jews permission to defend themselves. The Jews killed their enemies on the 14th of Adar and on the 15th they rested and celebrated. A holiday was established in memory of this historic victory.The religious community fasts on the day before Purim. At the end of the fast, after nightfall Jews gather in synagogues to hear the reading of the Book of Ester. After synagogue and the following day there are celebrations, parties and parades. The parades take place in almost all Israeli cities and are often before the actual day of Purim or a few days later, depending on the weather and day of the week.Purim Traditions in Israel Purim Foods- Hamantaschen (also called oznei Haman or the ears of Haman in Hebrew) are triangular cookies filled with poppy seeds, jam or chocolate. In Israel you will see these delicious cookies on sale at every bakery and supermarket.Gift Giving- It is traditional to give food hampers (mishloach manot) to friends, family and those less privileged than ourselves. These hampers usually hold wine, cookies, chocolate, nuts and other goodies.Fancy Dress- Kids and adults in Israel dress up in fancy dress during Purim. There are Purim fancy dress parties in bars, pubs, night clubs and private venues. The symbolism of the costumes is to show that God was behind the Purim miracle but his involvement was masked.Getting Drunk- Believe it or not it is even a Purim tradition to get drunk! This originates from a passage in the Talmud which states:” A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between “cursed by Haman” and “blessed by Mordechai.” So it is a “mitzvah” or good deed when you drink too much during Purim!Things to See and Do in Israel during PurimThere are many special events in Israel during Purim. Purim is one of the most exciting holidays for nightclub. There are many fancy dress parties held in top nightclubs across the country. The main attraction during Purim is the Adloyada or Purim Parade. Parades are held in most cities but the most famous Purim parade takes place in Holon, a short drive from Tel Aviv. The parades include parade floats, costumed performers, dancing and music. Be’er Sheva also holds a great Purim event in the streets of the Old City.Purim in Tel AvivThe main Purim event in Tel Aviv is a street party held in Kikar HaMedina. It is a huge event with live musical performances, market stalls, dancing , singing and great food. Tel Aviv is also the site of the Purim Zombie Walk. Locals (and visitor) dress up as zombies and walk through the streets starting on the corner of Ben-Zion Blvd and King George Street.Purim in JerusalemPurim is celebrated a day early in Jerusalem and other “walled” cities but the celebrations continue throughout the Purim week. To enjoy Purim in Jerusalem head for Safra Square for family-friendly events like circus acts, a costume competition and arts and crafts workshops. There will be performances by top Israeli musicians and TV stars. In Jerusalem’s Sacher Park there will be a fun event with food stalls, music and live shows from 10am. Special Purim events are held at a number of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv museums including the Israel Museum, Bloomfield Science Museum and the Tower of David Museum. Although most of the Purim parties have yet to be announced you will probably find Purim fun at Jerusalem’s Nachalot Street Party. This street party is on Nisim Bachar Street, Jerusalem and entrance is free.
By Petal Mashraki

Pesach – The Jewish Pilgrimage

The Jewish religious calendar is full of events and holy days, most of which commemorate historic biblical events. Each religious holiday comes with its own traditions and religious ceremonies. However only three religious holidays require Jews to make a pilgrimage – Pesach (Passover), Sukkot and Shavuot together they are called Shlosh HaRegalim. Of the three pilgrimages Pesach was the most important as it marks the birth of Israel as a free nation.Seder Pesach, aritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.Photo byPhil GoodwinonUnsplashIn ancient times the pilgrimage was to the Temple which stood on Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem up until 70CE. Pilgrims would come to the Temple and bring a sacrificial offering. Today, because the Temple no longer stands, prayer has replaced the sacrifices and the pilgrimage is no longer a Torah obligation. However many thousands of Jews choose to make the annual journey to visit the City of Gold during the pilgrimage festivals.As the Temple is no longer standing the pilgrimage is made to the Wailing Wall, the last remaining wall of the Temple where pilgrims come to pray. There is a point within the Wailing Wall Tunnel which is the closest point to where the Holy of Holies of the 2nd Temple once stood. Many pilgrims go to this point to prey. Other less religious Israeli Jews make the pilgrimage during Passover but turn it into a fun day out in the country’s capital without the religious implications.Pesach is a celebration of freedom, from slavery into independence from a foreign land into their own. Pesach lasts for 7 days (8 days outside of Israel) it begins on the 15th Nissan (usually in March and on the eve of 25th March in 2013) with Seder Night, a celebratory meal when the family comes together. At the Seder meal symbolic foods are eaten and the Hagadah, the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, is read.The first and last days of the holiday are observed like a Shabbat so no work is done and most businesses are closed. The intermediate days (Chol-ha-Mo’ed) are like a regular holiday, businesses may open half-day and schools are on vacation. For the entire holiday of 7 days, Jews abstain from eating bread or anything containing fermented grain. This is a reminder of the hasty exit from Egypt when the bread didn’t have time to rise.The Pesach Pilgrimage in the New TestamentChristians will recognize the Passover pilgrimage as an event in the life of Christ when Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with his parent for the Passover pilgrimage. At the time Jesus was only 12 years old, on this visit, his parents lost him and finally found him preaching in the Temple (Luke 4:43). Many years later when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in the days preceding his crucifixion it was also leading up to the Passover pilgrimage.
By Petal Mashraki

Hanukkah in Israel

Each year Jews celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah which is often called the “Jewish Christmas” because it occurs in December. If you happen to be in Israel during Hanukkah you will be lucky enough to share in this special celebration. Unlike Christian holidays the date of Hanukkah changes each year because of the Jewish lunar calendar. In Israel Hanukkah is a week-long school holiday but there are no days observed like Shabbat so all top attractions in Jerusalem and other cities as well as stores remain open as usual. There are many special events put on to keep Israeli school kids busy and to entertain locals and visitors alike.Hanukkah menorah against the background of Tanach page. Photo byDiana PolekhinaonUnsplashWhat is Hanukkah?The Hanukkah holiday celebrates an event that took place in the 160 SBC. During that time Palestine was ruled by Greek-Syrians and Jews were persecuted. Jews were forbidden to worship, many were murdered, scrolls were burnt and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated. A small group of Jews rose up against their oppressors and fought back in the “Maccabean Revolt.” The Jews were victorious and proceeded to restore the Temple and rededicate it. Part of rededicating the Temple was lighting the Menorah (a seven-lamped candelabra which had to remain lit eternally. When the Maccabees came to light the Temple’s Menorah they found that only a small jug of the required pure olive oil remained. The oil should have been sufficient only to light the lamp for one day. However, a miracle occurred and it remained lit for eight days by which time more oil had been found.To commemorate the events of Hanukkah Jews light candles on an eight-armed candelabra (called a Hanukkia). On the first night of Hanukkah one candle is lit and each successive night an additional candle is lit until all eight are lit. In addition, there is the 9th candle in the middle of the Hanukkiah which is used to light the others. The symbols of Hanukkah are light, oil, the hanukiah, and the dreidel – a spinning top.Two Hanukkah menoras with lit candles. Photo byshraga kopsteinonUnsplashHow is Hanukkah Celebrated in Israel?Bearing in mind the symbols of Hanukkah you will see a lot of fried foods (commemorating the miraculous oil) in Israel during Hanukkah. The most famous Hanukkah food is the doughnut or sufgania. This is a round doughnut with no hole in the middle but instead, it is filled with jam. Every café, restaurant, and kiosk will be selling sufganiot. These days there are many different kinds of sufganiot, from chocolate to alcohol flavored! An estimated 24 million sufganiot are eaten in Israel each Hanukkah. The symbol of light and the hanukkiah can be seen in Israel during Hanukkah. Each Israeli household displays a hanukkiah on the windowsill.Special Events in Israel during HanukkahHanukkah ShowsDuring the Hanukkah holiday in Israel, there is a plethora of theatrical productions, musical shows, concerts, and dance productions geared towards families. The most famous of these Hanukkah shows is the Festigal, a spectacular extravaganza of bright costumes, comedy, music, and dance. Top Israeli performers often appear in the Festigal. The Festigal is held annually in Tel Aviv. A more recent addition is Motek Shel Festival which is the same idea but geared towards a younger audience.Hanukkiah with 5 lit candles. Photo byRobert ThiemannonUnsplashHanukkah ToursSpecial walking tours of Jerusalem and the religious city of Bnei Brak are organized so that you can see the many hanukkiot displayed in the windows of private homes. This kind of Hanukkah tour takes place at night and includes walking through neighborhoods where many hanukkiot are displayed.The lighting of the HanukkiahEach city has a large hanukkiah set up in a public square. The hanukkiah is ceremoniously lit on the first night of Hanukkah. On the subsequent nights of Hanukkah, the city’s hanukkiah is often lit automatically. The most famous candle lighting ceremonies you can see take place next to the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Each year on the first night of Hanukkah a torch Relay starts in the city of Modi’in and travels to the Western Wall in Jerusalem where the giant hanukkiah is lit.Museums during HanukkahMost museums hold special themed exhibits or workshops during Hanukkah. Science museums often hold demonstrations of light experiments. Other museums display artistic variations on the hanukkiah or hold kids' workshops where they can create their own hanukkiah, spinning top, or candles. Savivon, or dreidel. Photo byTetiana SHYSHKINAonUnsplashYou will definitely find special events and activities relating to Hanukkah at the Children’s Museum in Holon; the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv; the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem; the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and at the Tower of David Museum in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Bloomfield Science Museum holds an annual MakeLight exhibition.In addition, there is the Museum of Edible Oil Products in Haifa which naturally ties in with the Hanukkah theme. The Hasmonean Village recreates the Hanukkah story each year; the Ein Yael Oil Festival is held in Jerusalem.Hanukkah Parties in IsraelOf course, the Israelis party whenever there is a good excuse! And Hanukkah is no exception. You will find bars, pubs, and clubs across the country holding Hanukkah parties throughout the holiday.Holiday of Holidays HaifaThe Haifa municipality holds special events on weekends throughout December. The Holiday of Holidays activities and shows celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and Eid al-Fitr.
By Petal Mashraki

Visiting Israel during Shavuot

This year Shavuot will be celebrated from sundown on Tuesday 3rd to sundown on Thursday 5th of June. Shavuot is also called the Festival of Weeks, First Fruits, Harvest Holiday or Pentecost. This religious and traditional Jewish holiday is a celebration of the first harvest. When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem this would have been the time when the first fruits were brought as an offering to the Temple. This agricultural holiday is one of three major Jewish holidays which requires religious Jews to make a journey to Jerusalem. In ancient times the Jewish people would make the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem on Passover, Sukkoth (Feast of Booths), and Shavuot. Shavuot also marks the end of the Counting of the Omer, a 50 day period starting on the first day of Passover. An Omer was the Biblical measure of a quantity of grain and at the end of the counting of the Omer, an offering would be made from the first wheat harvest of the year. Because of the holiday’s association with agriculture, the symbols of Shavuot are the seven species of Israel – wheat, grapes, barley, pomegranates, dates, olives, and figs. The holiday also marks the day when the Torah was given to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai.What to Expect When Visiting Israel during ShavuotYour trip to Israel will only be slightly affected if you are here during Shavuot. On the one hand, there are many fun events, parties, and a holiday atmosphere and on the other hand, Shavuot is a national religious holiday and you may find some sites closed for two days. During Shavuot Israelis traditionally wear white clothes, young children often are asked to wear flower wreaths in their hair to school and the stores are overflowing with an abundance of fruit.It is traditional to study Torah throughout the night during Shavuot so the Western Wall will be alive with visitors and worshipers night and day. Religious Jews attend synagogue on Shavuot and hear the reading of the Book of Ruth which is associated with the holiday. It is traditional to eat dairy products on Shavuot so you’ll find restaurants offering delicious meals made with Israel’s wonderful dairy products. Religious and non-religious alike tend to keep the tradition of dressing in white and enjoying delicious dairy meals. If you have the opportunity to visit a moshav or kibbutz on Shavuot you could attend the Shavuot ceremony of Bikkurim (first fruits) when the harvest fruits and grains are displayed in festive parades. In Jerusalem, you will find special happenings at many museums, malls and lots of activity, and a festive atmosphere in the Old City.
By Petal Mashraki

Christmas in Israel 2017

People are often confused about how and even if Christmas is celebrated in Israel. On the one hand Israel is a Jewish country and on the other hand Israel was the setting for the nativity. Israel is home to the landmarks and locations mentioned in the Bible including those of the first Christmas. Christmas in Israel is a magical and once-in-a-lifetime experience for any Christian traveler. However Christmas celebrations in Israel are different to the ones you may be used to. While Christians celebrate the birth of Christ in December, Jews celebrate Hanukah. Often these two religious holidays coincide and visitors can enjoy the celebrations of both events.Christmas in IsraelChristmas is not an official national holiday in Israel. You won’t see streets, stores or homes decorated with Christmas decorations unless you visit one of the few Christian communities. The Israeli city with the highest number of Christian residents is Nazareth. Other Christian communities can be found in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter; in Jaffa; Haifa; Ramla and a small community in Southern Tel Aviv. Only in the large cities will you see Christmas lights. Christians (and all other faiths) are free to worship and express their beliefs in Israel.Where to Experience Christmas in Israel?Christmas in JerusalemIf you are in Jerusalem you will find many churches in the Old City celebrating the holiday. The most important of these churches is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Throughout the Christmas season there are special religious services held in the Holy Sepulchre and other Jerusalem churches. Some of the churches present carol singing and concerts. The Christ Church in the Old City holds an annual Christmas concert. The Jerusalem YMCA hosts special Christmas events for the whole family in the week running up to Christmas Day. At the YMCA there are concerts, markets, kids’ activities and workshops. Try to catch the Armenian Christmas procession through the Old City in January (they celebrate Christmas later than most denominations). In the village-like community of Ein Kerem you can also see signs of Christmas.Christmas in NazarethChristmas is most evident in Nazareth where there is an annual Christmas Market, special celebratory events, church services, Christmas lights and a huge Christmas tree in the city center. The municipality holds a Hanukah-Christmas concert the week before Christmas in the Nazareth Industrial Park. On the day before Christmas there is a parade through the streets of Nazareth (3:30 p.m.); a firework display in the evening (5:30 p.m.)and Christmas mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation in the evening(7 p.m.).Christmas in RamlaRamla is usually overlooked by tourists but it is a city shared by Jews, Muslims and Christians. You can find churches and Christmas services in Ramla; the largest Christmas service in Ramla is at the Franciscan Parish Church of St. Joseph.Christmas in Tel AvivIf you want to party on Christmas Eve the place to be is Tel Aviv. Most pubs and nightclubs in Israel hold Christmas Eve parties even though those celebrating are almost all Jewish. As the Israelis say “any reason is a good reason to party…” In Jaffa Christmas is celebrated with a Winter Festival and Christmas Market at the Jaffa Port. A large Christmas tree is erected and you may see firework displays. The market runs from 15th December to 8th January. There are often Christmas parties and events at the Armenian Church of St. Nicholas. There is an ever-growing refugee and immigrant community in South Tel Aviv. Most of these immigrants are Christians and have small but strong church groups.Christmas in HaifaHaifa is home to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The municipality celebrates the Jewish holiday of Hanukah, the Christian holiday of Christmas and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr with their Holiday of Holidays events. There is a packed schedule of special events throughout the city celebrating the different cultures and their traditions through art, theatre and music. Holiday of Holidays is held on the weekends in December. The Haifa municipality also decorates the streets with Christmas lights and erects a Christmas tree in the city center.The First Christmas in IsraelAs most Christians know about 2017 years ago Mary and Joseph made their way from Nazareth in the Galilee to Bethlehem where they had to register for a national census. Mary was pregnant at the time with the future Christ. On arrival in Bethlehem they found all available accommodation full. An inn keeper took pity on them and offered to let them stay in his manger. In those days the manger would have been a cave near the inn where animals were kept. It was here in Bethlehem that Jesus was born on the first Christmas Eve.Other New Testament locations in Israel include the sites of Jerusalem – the Mount of Olives; the Temple Mount where the Holy Jewish Temple stood; the Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus took bearing his cross to his crucifixion and the site of his crucifixion and burial. In Northern Israel there are more Christian sites including Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Mt. Tabor, Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum and more. If you spend Christmas 2017 in Israel you can take the opportunity to see these Christian sites as well as those in Bethlehem.Christmas Israel ToursIf you are coming to Israel specifically to experience Christmas “where it happened” then the best thing to do is join an organized tour to Bethlehem. There are organized tours which include sightseeing in Jerusalem on the day before Christmas. In the evening the tour continues from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. On route you will see the setting for Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. As you near Bethlehem your tour guide will point out the fields where shepherds would have watched their sheep all those years ago on the first Christmas Eve. On arrival in Bethlehem you can join Christians from around the world in Manger Square. Alongside the square is the Church of Nativity which encompasses the Holy Grotto believed to have been the “manger.” Inside the church a Midnight Mass is held and in Manger Square the service is shown on large screens.If you would rather tour the sites of Bethlehem, Jerusalem or the Galilee before or after Christmas Eve you can do that too. As Christmas is not an official national holiday in Israel there are organized tours on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and even New Year’s Day. Tours to Christian sites including Bethlehem are held every day of the year except on some Jewish holidays. On a Bethlehem tour you would see the Holy Grotto in the Church of Nativity; the Church of St. Catherine and the Milk Grotto. Christmas tours to Israel include Jerusalem and take you to all the Christian sites of the city.
By Petal Mashraki

Christmas in Jerusalem

After the holiday of Easter in Israel, which for Christians is the most important festival in their calendar, Christmas is an incredibly popular time to visit Jerusalem. With dozens of churches in the Old City, near to the Old City and in the neighbourhood of Ein Kerem, there’s no shortage of places to spend this special time of year. And let’s not forget that - located just six kilometres from this holy city - is Bethlehem. Without a doubt, it’s an unforgettable place to celebrate the Christmas holidays.Nativity scene. Photo by Ben White on UnsplashFor sure, Christmas in Jerusalem is a truly unique time of year. Whilst it can be chilly (don’t forget to bring some warm clothes, since it is high in the hills) it’s Old City's Christian and Armenian quarters are filled with beautiful decorations and have a truly festive atmosphere. Other landmarks in the newer part of the city, such as the YMCA, are also fine places to visit since they hold carol concerts and services.And for a little luxury, you can always pop across the way to the elegant King David hotel for a drink at their elegant bar, or a meal in their famed fine-dining restaurant. Nevertheless, most pilgrims tend to congregate inside the walls of the Old City, so let’s take a look at what goes on there.Old City CelebrationsOn Christmas Eve, many Christian pilgrims follow in the footsteps of Jesus, from the spot at which he was tried to the site of his crucifixion and burial (Calvary), located at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. If you are within the walls, you will see them walking the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem and whilst this is something often associated with Easter in Jerusalem (and Good Friday services), it is still very moving procession to watch.Midnight Mass is always held at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most sacred site for millions of Christians around the world. Dedicated in 336 CE, its lavish interior and extraordinary ambience make it a unique place to attend services. Whether of an Orthodox denomination - Greek, Coptic, Armenian & Syriac - or Roman Catholic - there will be chapels open for prayer and you will be astonished at a large number of candles lit there, only adding to the atmosphere.Christmas tree. Photo by Joanna Kosinska on UnsplashMidnight Mass and the Annual Procession to BethlehemAfter Midnight Mass at the Holy Sepulchre, many pilgrims decide to participate in the Procession led by the Latin Patriarch, which winds its way through Jerusalem’s Old City. Latin Patriarchs are the Catholic episcopal see of Jerusalem and stretch back to the time of Arnulf of Chocques in 1099. After a period of time where they sat in Rome, Pius IX reinstated a Resident Patriarch in Jerusalem in 1847.The procession passes by the Mar Elias Monastery, located in the south of Jerusalem and overlooking Herodion and Bethlehem. Maintained today by the Greek Orthodox church, it is decorated with Byzantine-style paintings depicting biblical scenes and worth a visit in its own right. The procession finally arrives in Bethlehem at around 1 am, passing by Palestinian scouts marching bands parading through Manger Square, bagpipe players, choirs that are carol-singing and an enormous Christmas tree. Pilgrims finally arrive at the Church of Nativity, the spot where Jesus was born in a stable.A fine way to mark this special holiday could also be with a ‘Christmas Eve in Jerusalem and Bethlehem’ tour that culminates with a festive dinner and midnight mass outside the Church of Nativity. Not only will you be able to see landmarks in the city, but you will also eat with your group, close to Manger Square, before partaking in the Midnight Mass.Christmas tree in Bethlehem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockAlternative Services in JerusalemFor those who are less inclined to travel on foot to Bethlehem, there are a number of services at other churches in the city. At midnight, you could attend the Benedectine Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion and sing Christmas carols. Located at the highest point in Jerusalem, it commemorates the spot where Mary died (‘fell asleep’ as the name suggests). Look out for the dome above the statue of Mary - it shows pictures of six women from the Old Testament - Eve, Miriam, Yael, Judith, Ruth and Esther.For protestants, the Christ Church offers fantastic hospitality, beginning around 7 pm with coffee, biscuits and carol singing. After prayer and discussion, there is a Christmas service that begins at around 10.30 pm and lasts until after midnight. The Episcopal St. Anne’s Church, just 200 metres from the Jaffa Gate, also offers services and a popular concert, which tourists love. The Armenian Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Spasm (also known as the Church of Sorrows of Mary) also welcomes visitors.Dormition Abbey, Mount Zion, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Sofia EmeliyanovaNotre Dame Centre and the YMCAAnother highly recommended spot to celebrate Christmas in Jerusalem is the Notre Dame Centre. This beautiful French cathedral is located opposite the Lions' Gate and was built in the 1880s, to accommodate pilgrims wanting to travel from France to the Holy Land. Constructed on land purchased by the Count of Piellat, its architecture is a fusion of classical and modern - and after decades of construction, a beautiful nave was put in place. (Our tip: arrive early and visit their lovely rooftop restaurant, to enjoy a glass of wine and a cheese plate whilst watching the sunset over the Old City walls).The annual Christmas Eve concert and singalong at Jerusalem’s famous YMCA is always a lovely (and multicultural!) affair, including classical music as well as Christmas carols. Built in 1933 by the American architect Arthur Harmon (who actually designed the Empire State Building) it runs educational and cultural programmes throughout the year and its Youth Choir and tree-lighting ceremony are always a lovely thing to see. (Indeed, even at the height of the COVID pandemic, virtual services took place with a rendition of Ava Maria by the famed Israeli singer Achinoam Nini, as well as songs from the Nutcracker Ballet (accompanied by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra).Christmas-inspired concerts can also be heard at the Lutheran Church of Augusta Victoria. Located in the east of the city, on the northern side of the Mount of Olives, it was built at the turn of the century for the city’s German Protestant community who lived, at that time, in Ottoman Palestine.Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Garden Tomb and Ein KeremThe Garden Tomb (always particularly popular with Protestants) is not the first place you might think of visiting in Jerusalem, at this time of the year, but it’s not just a spot of worship for Easter. Located close to the Damascus Gate and believed by some to be the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected, every year they hold an evening of Christmas carols that are sung in English, Hebrew and Arabic! Finally, for those who care to venture out to Ein Kerem (which means ’Spring of the Vineyard’ in Hebrew) is a charming, lush hillside village, located in the southwest area of the city and famous for its ancient holy sites. These include the Church of the Visitation and the Church of John the Baptist.Christ Church Courtyard in the Old City of Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Christmas in Bethlehem

Christmas in Israel can be magical and a truly spiritual experience. There are services in local churches (mainly in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem) as well as services held at the locations where Christmas events took place. Many tour buses leave Jerusalem on Christmas Eve to services in Shepherds' Field where an angel appeared to the shepherds on Christmas Eve. The tours continue to the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and end off at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the Midnight Mass.Christmas tree in Bethlehem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockOf all the Christmas celebrations in Israel, perhaps the largest and most moving is at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, where gather in Manger Square to be a part of the celebration of Jesus’ birth on the spot where the events unfolded.Christmas in Bethlehem includes processions through the streets, carol singing, and religious services which can all be an extremely spiritual experience.Roman Catholics celebrate on the 24th of December at Saint Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem, as well as on the 5th and 6th of January when the Epiphany is commemorated. Greek, Coptic, Romanian, and Syriac Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on the 6th of January in Bethlehem. For those belonging to Orthodox denominations, it is customary to join into one of the many religious processions that are held in Bethlehem. Armenians tend to hold their services at the Basilica of the Nativity, although this falls a few weeks later than Protestant/Catholic times (usually the third week of January). These processions always pass through Manger Square, close to the site where it is believed that Jesus was born. For Protestants, it is a different matter.Some of them, of course, will attend evening services in their local churches whilst others will make the trip to the Church of the Nativity or Shepherd’s Field. For Protestants who want to travel to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, the YMCA organizes an evening trip. In Jerusalem, popular Protestant and Anglican churches include the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and St. George’s.Nativity scene, stained glass, Church of St. Catherine, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChristmas traditions in Bethlehem tend to be in the same vein as those in Europe and North America. A week or two before 25th December lights will be put up, as well as other decorations, and flags will fly. Christians often paint crosses on the doors of their home and traditional Christmas markets are held, selling all kinds of fare associated with the holiday. If you look in the windows of peoples’ houses, you may also see miniature Nativity scenes on display.On 24th December - Christmas Eve - an afternoon parade is held in the center of the town and all of the residents, not to mention pilgrims and tourists, crowd the streets in an attempt to get a bird’s eye view of the celebrations. At the head of the Parade are officers on horses and behind them a man - also on a black horse - carrying a cross. Following him are government and church officials. Once the parade has arrived at the Church of Nativity followed by a man riding over a black steed and carrying a cross. After him comes the churchmen and government officials. After the parade has entered the Church of the Nativity, a statue of the ‘Holy Child’ is placed inside. The honored guests then descend down a long flight of stairs which leads them into a grotto. There can be seen a silver star - this is the place that marks Christ’s birth.In Nazareth, there are Christmas Eve parades and firework displays as well as church services. In all over 90,000 foreign visitors arrive in Israel annually to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is celebrated also in Haifa and in Jaffa. It is important to remember that throughout the rest of Israel you could probably not even notice that it is Christmas in Israel as unlike America and Europe the streets and stores are not decorated, there is no Santa ringing a bell outside shops, and Christmas music cannot be heard in the streets. Book a tour to the Christmas Eve in Jerusalem & midnight mass in BethlehemInside the Church of St. Catherine, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Petal Mashraki

The Red Sea Jazz Festival

The Red Sea Jazz Festival is an annual event held in the gorgeous beach resort city of Eilat, Israel on the edge of the Red Sea. Since its initiation the festival has grown in size and importance. The Red Sea Jazz Festival plays an important role in fostering Israeli jazz talent and has also earned itself a reputation in the international jazz scene. The event takes place over four days in August at the music-inspired Prima Music Hotel and other Eilat venues.jazz festival The Red Sea Jazz Festival hosts a special tribute to Israeli jazz with lots of performances spanning the full spectrum of the Israeli jazz scene, showcasing the multicultural tapestry of Israeli jazz. The festival includes Israel’s greatest jazz performers who have established careers both in Israel and internationally. At the festival, there are both veteran pioneer artists responsible for establishing the jazz culture in Israel and new up-and-coming Israeli artists. The festival follows a special format to salute the legendary Israeli jazz artists with original productions showing the development of jazz through the generations. In addition, usually, there are several big-name international acts including such artists as The Chick Corea Trio, Avi Lebovich and The Orchestra; Aharale Kaminsky; Albert Piamenta; Guy King; TATRAN; Quartet to Afrika; Shlomi Shaban; Shalom Hanoch and Maya Belsitzman among others.Few festivals manage to continue for 30 years and this is a testament to the strong legacy and unique character of the event. In addition to the live performances, the festival offers other special events like the Red Sea Jazz Festival Young Jazz Program. Young musicians will be able to join a workshop run by some of the festival performing artists. The festival hosts the Israeli Jazz Convention, discussion panels, lectures, master classes, workshops for the public, and in the mornings special jazz performances geared towards children aged 5-10 years. One of the traditions of the Red Sea Jazz Festival is the Jam Session held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel poolside. The jam session starts at 11 pm and the jamming continues into the night. Throughout the festival, there are usually sunset jazz cocktail events on Mosh’s Beach near the Eilat Port. Entrance is regularly free and the cocktails will be accompanied by a selection of young bands.Queen of Sheba hotel EilatEilat is the ultimate beach resort; during the festival, visitors will be able to enjoy the incredible Red Sea where there are natural coral reefs, schools of tropical fish, and even dolphins. There are water sports for the whole family, cruise excursions, dreamy beaches, and amazing malls. Eilat is a duty-free port city so you can shop-til-you-drop. Be sure to visit the Ice Mall which has an ice rink in the center. Visitors can also take excursions into the surrounding desert to places like Park Timna, the Dead Sea, and Masada. From Eilat, there are convenient day trips to Petra, Jordan, one of the seven wonders of the world. Eilat has wonderful restaurants, many specializing in seafood and you will find that Eilat hotels rival the best beach resort hotels worldwide. Visitors can enjoy the Red Sea Jazz Festival and a fantastic holiday.Practical Information:When: usually in August. Performances and events take place throughout the day from 10 are to 1 am.Where: At select Eilat venues including the Crowne Plaza Hotel; Jazz Cinema; Port arena; Red Note and the Sea Club.
By Petal Mashraki

The Mountain to Valley Relay Race – April 2018

The Mountain to Valley Relay Race 2018 is one of the top Israel events to be held on 26-27 April 2018. This will be the 10th annual Mountain to Valley (M2V) race. M2V is a 215 km group relay race which takes place over the course of about 20 hours. Although the race offers a competitive and non-competitive category there are no monitory prizes. Instead participants take part for the social interaction, personal challenge and to enjoy the stunning scenery of this unique race.Mountain to Valley Relay Race RoutThe race starts in Tel-Hai. The route takes you through the Hula Valley, past the Sea of Galilee, the Beit Netofa Valley and the Menashe Mountains.The finish line is in the Yizrael Valley near Timrat. The route is divided into 24 segments each measuring 5-12 km.Teams of 4, 6 or 8 runners take turns running the segments in a rotation order.Due to the nature of the run which takes place over the course of about 20 hours runners can sleep in a car or hotel when it is not their turn to run. The race takes place during day and night hours and so some runner will be running in the dark. This is a truly unique race experience. Runners should have flashlights and luminous vests to help them on their way through the dark. Runners can be accompanied by an assistant runner. Most of the race is run along trails and off-road. Along the route roads are not closed to traffic and so runners need to be very careful. It also means that the runners can be accompanied by a vehicle. The vehicle is used for carrying food, water, assistance and as a place to rest.Mountain to Valley Relay Race 2018 Routes and CategoriesThe race has competitive and non-competitive categories. Running teams are classified according to the number of runners (8/6/4); whether the runners are all women, all men or mixed and whether the team is competitive or non-competitive. Competitive runners must run on a rotation basis with each runner resting while all the other runners have a turn to run. With non-competitive teams it doesn’t matter the order of the runners or number of legs each team member runs.Teams can register for the race online. Teams can determine their own starting time from Tel-Hai and the line-up of starting times will be staggered. The first team will head out on 26 April at 6 a.m. and the last team will set off at 2 p.m. There will be a closing ceremony on 27 April at 10 a.m.
By Petal Mashraki
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