If you’re visiting Israel in September to October, you’re in for a treat! The month of September is filled with three major holidays – from the sweets treats during Rosh Hashanah, the solemn and silence of Yom Kippur to the celebratory atmosphere and feasting during Sukkot!
Uniquely Israeli, the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar (i.e. 1st January) is fascinatingly, not widely celebrated in Israel. Instead, both Jews in Israel and those all over the world celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the new year according to the Jewish calendar. Although Rosh Hashanah focuses more on family gathering and meals, and many businesses will be closed, there are still many activities that you can do!
Visiting a synagogue during Rosh Hashanah could be one of the key highlights of your trip!
During the synagogue services, Jews recite special prayers and liturgical songs that were written over the centuries. Interestingly, many of these prayers vary between Jews as they developed them based on where they were living! However, the highlight of Rosh Hashanah service has to be the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn) where 100 (or 101) shofar blasts are sounded. Although all the synagogues in Israel will be having services, there are many international ones that welcome tourists and may even have translated services in English. We suggest visiting The Tel Aviv International Synagogue – Beit El along Frishman St for their morning service. More details can be found here: https://metzion.org. Do note that for most synagogues, there is a dress code to adhere to and there is a strict enforcement of no phones or camera during the service.
However, if you are look for something more modern, you may also consider visiting the Kabbalah Center in Tel Aviv. Kabbalah is an ancient wisdom that provides practical tools for creating joy and long lasting fulfilment. The centre will be hosting tradition services with a unique twist that focuses more on the community and creating a better future together. Even Madonna and Ashton Kutcher are big fans of the practice so when better to get in touch of your spiritual side than this Rosh Hashanah!
The customary new year greeting is “Shanah Tovah u-Metukah” which means ‘A good and sweet year’ and is usually accompanied by the offering of pomegranates and apples dipped in honey amongst many other sweet treats. So be sure to sample and purchase some honey to dip apple into or honey cake ! The round challah (braided sweet bread) will also be seen in many bakeries around the city as its round shape symbolises the circle of life. Look out also for special meals by restaurants where different varieties of auspicious food will be served such as black eyed peas and even fish head!
Unidance Festival (15th September)
Beyond the more serious side of Rosh Hashanah, Tel Avivians also love to party during the new year as well! Join Dutch DJ sensation Afrojak, Bobby Burns, D-Wayne, Yuval Zazh and Apster as we party the night away at the Unidance Festical 2015! Afrojack also known as the ninth best DJ in the world in 2013 has had two sell-out shows in Tel Aviv in 2012 and has performed all around the world, even winning a Grammy Award! So head on down to Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv on the 15th September and we are sure it will be a night to remember!
(22nd – 23rd September) Yom Kippur also known as Day of Atonement, is considered the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people It focuses on atonement and repentance and many Jews observe this day with fasting, intensive prayer and spending most of the day in the synagogue. Hence, expect that nearly all businesses will be closed during the holiday. Interestingly, as one of the most culturally significant Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur is observed by many secular Jews as well. It also explains why Yom Kippur is the only day when life in Israel comes to a standstill – where there will be virtually no cars on the road and absolutely no public transport. Therefore, biking on Yom Kippur is not only an iconic activity but is the best option for moving around in Israel. We suggest that you rent the bikes before the the holidays start as most businesses will be closed. If not, walk along the streets and just enjoy the eerie silence of no traffic or head down to the major intercity highways like Ayalon to see them filled with bikes of both kids and adults alike! Alternatively, take advantage of the peaceful silence and head down to the beaches to soak in the sun or take stroll in the parks! And that’s it! Enjoy your stay in Sea Executive Suites these holidays!