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Shana Tova Tel Aviv – High Holidays in Israel for the Layman

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“Shana tova” from Tel Aviv – for our tips on where to celebrate, scrawl down and see the suggested venues and programs. Photo: holiday invitation card by the Kabbalah Centre

Chag Sameach, Shana Tova – says the popular hashtag throughout the high holidays in Israel – with memes and posts on Instagram and Facebook, while people on the streets of Tel Aviv wish each other “Happy New Year”.

For those who are not familiar with the traditions, this can sound confusing, and it may be challenging to understand when and why so many of the businesses close up randomly during the month of the High Holidays in Israel.

Several Jewish holidays – some of which are full legal holidays here – fall, this year, during the month of October. Here’s our guide to see them through in a short summary – with the funniest e-cards from around the web. What to expect when in Tel Aviv throughout Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simhat Torah? Keep on reading, and you won’t get surprised by anyone asking you how your “New Year’s Eve in the middle of autumn” was…

 

Rosh Hashanah

Happy New Year! We have just passed Rosh Hashanah, the two-day “Jewish New Year”. Both days are full-on public holidays throughout the High Holidays in Israel and – as on the Sabbath in general – there is no public transportation nor are there newspapers. Also, many of the businesses, theaters, cinemas, museums and other institutions, which are usually open on the Sabbath are closed down over the holiday.

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Rosh Hashanah is mostly characterised by the special custom of eating sliced apple dipped in honey – or date syrup for the vegans – symbolizing faith that the upcoming year will be sweet and joyful, and families and friends gather to enjoy a rich feast, sharing stories and laughter around the dinner table. Lots of organizations host special Rosh Hashanah dinners for those without families, so no one has to miss out on one of the happiest holidays in Israel.

 

Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

The ten days passing by between the “Jewish New Year” and Yom Kippur, the next upcoming holiday, are known as “The Ten Days of Repentance”.

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According to the tradition of High Holidays in Israel this is a special time of judgment, when we all have the chance to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we could have done differently last year, to arrive to a better place, and what we wish to change in our lives to step to the next level; may it be related to romantic and business relationships, health and family matters, or personal development.  Luckily for us, we can do all this while businesses remain open, and there are no special restrictions – so travelers won’t encounter any challenges while enjoying all that wonderful Tel Aviv has to offer.

Yom Kippur

“Oy va voy”, here comes Yom Kippur – Hebrew for “The Day of Atonement” – which begins at sunset on Tuesday, 11 October, and ends at nightfall on Wednesday, 12 October. The so called “holiest day of the year” is the one on which our future for the upcoming year is decided “up there” in the skies.

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At nightfall, the shofar – a special instrument made of the horn of a ram – cries up to let the world know; it’s the end of Yom Kippur. The full public holiday requires that all stores – including non-stop businesses such as supermarkets – will be closed throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, 11-12 October. If you are trying to watch TV in your Sea N’ Rent holiday home, remember; the problem is not in your television – there will be no broadcasts, and don’t worry if you don’t see people on the streets, it’s not Armageddon – there is simply no traffic allowed on the streets of Tel Aviv throughout the High Holidays in Israel.

 

Sukkot

Here comes the fun! The seven-day Sukkot fest begins at sunset on Sunday, 16 October and comes to an end at nightfall on Sunday, 23 October. The first day – from sunset until the next day’s nightfall – is a full-on public holiday once again, but the difference is huge: no need to regret or weep, Sukkot is a joyful holiday.

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Although some businesses may close or keep alternative opening hours, chances are that you won’t have troubles enjoying an unrestricted, happy vacation in Tel Aviv. Sukkot is mostly known for the people of Israel building tents wherever it’s possible – including on terraces and in the gardens of restaurants and bars, while religious people take all of their meals in the tent, and even sleep in them. These huts are built to remind us of the portable “houses” in which the Israelites had to live during their 40-year-long wandering in the wilderness after breaking free from the slavery in Egypt.

Shemini Atzeret, or Simhat Torah

Shemini Atzeret, “The Eighth Day of Assembly”, or “Rejoicing of the Torah” in Hebrew is the holiday.

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It immediately follows Sukkot, beginning at sunset on Sunday, 23 October and running out with the nightfall of Monday, 24 October. Even though it follows the seventh day of Sukkot, and some think it’s part of the one-week festival, in reality it is indeed a separate holiday, marked by lots of dancing and singing, going on for several hours, often occupying the streets, bringing together religious and secular Jews and tourists enjoying the unexpected ball while celebrating the High Holidays in Israel.

 

Some Special Places you can Celebrate the High Holidays in Israel

  • Celebrity-favorite Kabbalah Centre on Dizengoff Square is open for Jews and non-Jews who wish to experience the high holidays in Israel from a spiritual point of view. Lectures and classes are held in English as well, and the meals and events are available for registration at the Centre’s bookstore, open every business day from 10 AM-7PM.
  • The LGBTQ Centre at Meir Garden hosts special meals, programs and happenings throughout the High Holidays in Israel, including charity events, and praying together with the members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
  • If you’re looking for an layman-friendly synagogue to attend this month, please have a look at this website for a list of synagogues in the Tel Aviv area that are welcoming to members of the LGBT, non-Jewish, and tourist community.
  • Religious yet open fto all: High Holidays at Chabad on the Coast, Tel Aviv, offers an authentic High Holiday experience. Joining the group singing joyous holiday melodies, holding traditional service with a modern message with Hebrew and English prayer books, dinners and breakfasts does not require membership fee; simply RSVP at ChabadontheCoast.com/events.
  • The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality‘s Center for Young Adults – at Mazeh street 9 – serves as a one-stop-shop, a new concept concentrating relevant services for English speakers in Tel Aviv–Yafo. The Hub serves as a central information point as well as a community center, bringing together professionals from a variety of fields and organizations under one roof. For more information, get in touch with Yvonne Kapon at kapon_y@tel-aviv.gov.il. 14567576_1188420601197337_3543622005342405405_o

Experiencing any unexpected trouble with transportation, or curious if some of your desired destinations throughout the High Holidays in Israel – may they be restaurants, cultural centers, or other locations – remain open on specific days? Let us know your question in our Facebook group. Keep up with us on Instagram as @seanrent_unlocktelaviv and Facebook as well, and expect our next blog post soon from Tel Aviv, the non-stop city that never sleeps.



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