May 28, 2024
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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always loved Chanukah. Truth is, I love any holiday that revolves around family (read: latkes) and a heaping dose of presents and parties (read: latkes). Sorry, George Wyle, but I think you’ve got it wrong. Chanukah in Israel “is the most wonderful time of the year.” And this is coming from a Canadian gal who loves some good ‘ol winter wonderland.

Come holiday season, pretty much the day after after Sukkot, the entire country decks the halls in everything Chanukah. From stores small and large to gas stations to dentist offices, Israel is completely bedazzled in Jewish dreidel garlands, candle twinkle lights and glittery golden menorahs. It’s nearly impossible not to get the memo. Chanukah is a-comin. But in case somehow you missed all the glitz and glamour, the bakeries here in Israel will gently remind you. And by gentle, I mean not so much. Take Roladin, a popular bakery-cafe with ridiculously good coffee. Roladin is like the three-Michelin-star equivalent for sufganiyot and has set the standard in the world of fried dough and sugary morsel treats. Among their decadent flavors this year: Blueberry Violet cheesecake, Nutella Ganache Hazelnut Cream and Royal Lindt Chocolate fudge. They are all neatly hugged in a bubblegum pink paper jewelry box in order to display them as the little precious jems that they are. Each doughnut really is a tiny work of edible art and is so popular that Roladin moves its confectionaries out of their cafes and sets up shop smack in the middle of the mall. The line for Roladin sufganiyot is credit enough to their extreme popularity. The Chanukah gold star definitely goes to Roladin bakery for their sugary over-the-top Chanukah delights.

Chanukah in all its sweet, sticky glory is also the official winter vacation for Israeli school children and is the time of year families and friends set aside to spend with each other. Israel is jam-packed with incredible activities for all age groups, including hands-on workshops like olive oil and candle making, escape rooms (with over 500 to choose from), free outdoor concerts by artists like Matisyahu and Neche Neche, skating in Holon and up north at the Canada center, to name just a few. Many shopping malls and museums hold children’s events and activities throughout the holiday that are dedicated to enriching children’s experiences and knowledge about the Festival of Lights with interactive hands-on light exhibitions for the entire family. Even the movie theaters get in on the holiday fun with Chanukah games and prize booths.

Though there are plenty of local Chanukah activities to choose from, some families choose to pack up their cars and travel either down south to Eilat, enjoying all the beach activities while the weather is still reasonably warm, or up north to the Golan where you can hike the bright green trails and milk cows, sampling homemade cheeses and wines to your heart’s content. No matter how you choose to celebrate Chanukah in Israel there are amazing opportunities at every turn.

The holidays in Israel are in the air we breathe and genuinely woven into the fabric of Jewish life here connecting the country’s people in some way or another. From the security guard checking my car wishing me a Chanukah Sameach to the bowling alleys and malls playing Chanukah songs and completely decked out in all their festive sparkling decor, Chanukah in Israel is ever present (excuse the pun).

My most inspiring moment this Chanukah, as a new olah and proud mom, was when I received a video from my son in the army who lit the menorah for his entire unit. To watch my oldest son in army fatigues light the holiday candles and see all his army buddies dance and sing around him celebrating the light and miracles of Chanukah on his base was truly one of the most inspirational and moving moments. These young soldiers are our real modern-day Maccabees and the shining light of our people and nation.

May all our families be blessed this Chanukah with light and laughter. And may this Chanukah holiday season bring love and joy and meaningful family memories, wherever you light your menorah.

Chanukah Sameach!

By Esti Rosen Snukal


Esti Rosen Snukal made aliya with her family six years ago from Teaneck, New Jersey. Esti currently resides in Chashmonaim and is a volunteer for The Lone Soldier Center. Esti can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Esti on Facebook and Instagram @ Esti1818.

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