Planning to visit Israel in 2019? Get the most out of your experience! Learn here about the most important holidays in Israel - fast and easy with HebrewPod101!
|January 21, 2019||Tu BiShvat|
|March 20, 2019||Purim|
|April 19, 2019||Pesach (Passover)|
|May 7, 2019||Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism|
|May 8, 2019||Independence Day|
|May 22, 2019||Lag BaOmer|
|June 8, 2019||The festival of weeks|
Tu BiShvat is an agricultural holiday that’s also called ראש השנה לאילנות (rosh ha-shana la-ilanot), meaning “the New Year of the Trees.” It’s celebrated on the 15th of Shvat according to the Hebrew calendar.
On Tu B’Shvat, people eat a lot of fruit, especially dried fruits, or in Hebrew פירות יבשים (perot yeveshim), such as dates, raisins, dried apricots, and dried figs, because in the past, before refrigerators, drying fruit was the only way Jews living in other countries could preserve fruits native to the Land of Israel.
Purim celebrates how the Jews of the Kingdom of Persia were saved from wicked Haman’s plot. Purim, which lasts two days, begins on the 14th of Adar, according to the Hebrew calendar. Purim is based on a story written in the Scroll of Esther, or מגילת אסתר (megilat ester) in Hebrew. According to the story, Ahasueros, the king of Persia, banished his wife and chose Esther, the Jewess, to take her place. Haman, the highest-ranking minister in the kingdom, planned to kill all of the Jews, but Esther discovered his plot, and thanks to her wisdom and sensitivity, she was able to thwart Haman’s plans.
On Purim, it’s customary for people to give each other tasty food packages. These are called משלוח מנות (mishloaħ manot).
One of the most important holidays in Judaism is Passover, or פסח (pesaħ) in Hebrew, which is also known as the “Festival of Freedom” or חג החירות (ħag ha-ħerut), because it commemorates the liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt.
On the first night of the holiday, a gala feast is held, to which family members near and far are invited, and even strangers—so no one will be alone on the eve of the holiday. Each community observes slightly different customs, but one thing is for sure–on this evening, sitting around the table, they all tell the story of the exodus from Egypt, or in Hebrew יציאת מצרים (yetzi’at mitzrayim), singing hymns and reading a book called the Passover Haggadah.
The Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorist Acts - יום הזכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ונפגעי פעולות האיבה, or Memorial Day for short, is meant to commemorate soldiers who fell in the line of duty during Israel’s wars, and the victims of terrorist attacks.
Memorial Day events begin the previous evening. At eight o’clock in the evening, a one-minute siren is sounded throughout Israel, immediately followed by the main event, held at the Western Wall, or הכותל המערבי (ha’kotel hama’aravi).
During the daytime, at 11 o’clock, a two-minute siren is sounded, marking the beginning of memorial services around the country. The main ceremony is held at the military cemetery in Mount Herzl.
Independence Day - יום העצמאות (yom haatzmaut) is a national holiday marking the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel at the end of the British Mandate, on May 14th, 1948.
The official ceremony that marks the beginning of Independence Day events, is the Torch-Lighting Ceremony - טקס הדלקת המשואות (tekes hadlakat hame’suot), held in Jerusalem. The torches are lit by Israelis whose achievements constitute a contribution to society and to the country. Aside from this ceremony, a military flyover, or מטס צבאי (matas tz’vai), and naval sail traverse the country, and during the afternoon, the International Bible Contest, or חידון התנ״ך (hidon hatanach), for Youth is held. The events of the day conclude with the Israel Prize award ceremony, or פרס ישראל (Pras israel).
In Israel, Lag Ba’omer is celebrated to commemorate some events that occurred during the second century of the common era: the Bar Kochva revolt against the Romans, or מרד (mered), the end of the plague that killed thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students, and the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, an important rabbi and one of the founding fathers of the Kabbalah.
The best-known Lag Ba’Omer tradition is lighting bonfires. Israeli children and young adults begin preparing for the bonfires weeks in advance, and they go out together to gather planks of wood, which is קרשים (krashim) in Hebrew. On the night of the holiday, they meet up, light a bonfire, roast potatoes and marshmallows in the fire, and sit around it and play games.
In Judaism, the first fruits of the year are called ביכורים (bikkurim). When the Holy Temple existed, people would bring their bikkurim there, starting on Shavu’ot. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, most of the moshavs and kibbutzes, or קיבוצים (Kibbutzim), have held “bikkurim-bringing” ceremonies, or טקסי ביכורים (Tiksey Bikkurim). During the ceremonies, a show is held, complete with songs, dances, and a parade with decorated agricultural tools.
One well-known Shavu’ot tradition is eating dairy products—cheeses, cakes, casseroles, and more.
The night is dedicated to learning about current events and social or philosophical issues.
While not a day for celebration, Tisha B’Av is observed by Jews each year. In the past, a couple of the worst tragedies in Jewish history occurred on this day, and so this is a day on which they remember truly horrible events in Jewish history, including the Holocaust. Jews fast on this day, as well as observe certain prohibitions in order to keep a spirit of solemnity.
The Hebrew year begins on the first of Tishrei, and on that day people celebrate Rosh HaShanah—the holiday marking the beginning of the New Year. The Jewish New Year is considered to be a Day of Judgement, or יום דין (yom din) in Hebrew. On this day, people are judged on what they did the previous year, and they predict what will happen in the coming year.
On the eve of Rosh HaShanah, each family meets for the festive holiday meal. They consume special New Year foods, like pomegranate seeds, cooked fish, dates, and desserts containing honey, or in Hebrew דבש (dvash).
Yom Hakippurim, also known as Yom Kippur - יום הכיפורים, is considered one of the holiest days in the Jewish year. It’s a holiday of forgiveness and atonement for sins, or מחילה על חטאים (mechila al hataym). It’s the day we afflict our souls, or נשמות (Neshamot), in order to purify them, but it isn’t a sad day. It comes with the promise of forgiveness and absolution by God. On this day, people fast and ask God to forgive them for their sins.
Most of the people in Israel aren’t religious, or דתיים (da-ti-im), but on Yom Kippur, a special atmosphere permeates every part of the country.
People celebrate this holiday in a Sukkah, or סוכה (su-kah)—a temporary structure erected outdoors, with walls that are generally large pieces of cloth, and a roof made of branches and leaves. The source of the holiday is in the Torah, which states “In order that your ensuing generations should know that I had the children of Israel live in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt.” On this holiday, people sit inside the Sukkahs in memory of the Sukkahs that the Children of Israel, or בני ישראל (Be’nei Israel) dwelt in in the desert, after they left Egypt, or מצרים (Mitz-ra-ym).
On November 4, 1995, then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on Malchei Yisrael Square, in Tel Aviv, by Yigal Amir, an extremist right-winger who was opposed to the government’s policies. Since then, the State of Israel has observed the Memorial Day for Yitzhak Rabin, on the 12th day of the month of Cheshvan חשוון, which was the Hebrew date of the assassination.
Many public institutions and streets were named after Rabin, and a memorial day was instituted, which would be observed at ceremonies all over Israel. National flags are lowered to half-mast, and schools teach about Yitzhak Rabin’s life and deeds, about the importance of democracy in Israel, and about how violence endangers society and the country.
Chanukah, or חנוכה (cha-nu-kah), is a Jewish holiday that lasts for eight days, and is dedicated to the memory of the victorious insurrection led by the Hasmoneans, or חשמונאים (hash-mo-na’yim), the purification of the Holy Temple, or בית המקדש (beit ha’mikdash), and the restoration of religious rites.
On each evening of the holiday, people light one candle of the Chanukiah, or חנוכיה, and set the Chanukiah by the window.
People have the tradition of eating foods fried in oil, like latkes—potato pancakes, doughnuts, and sfinj—special fried doughnuts eaten by Jews of North African origin.
You may ask why it is advantageous to know Israeli holidays. There are a number of good reasons!
If you’re keen to learn Hebrew on your own, there are a number of ways to do this. Why not choose holidays as a theme? You can start by learning about the Israeli culture, so find a video or TV program about holidays in Israel. Better still - find a video or program about holidays in Hebrew, and watch it a few times! That way your ear will get used to the spoken language. You could also watch Israeli movies without subtitles, as this too will train your ear to what correct Hebrew sounds like.
If you’re more advanced in Hebrew, you can practice your writing skills by writing a letter to your Israeli friend about the holidays video. Or write a short review of the video, and post it on social media! Imagine how impressed your friends will be!
Practice your Hebrew pronunciation, and record yourself talking about your holiday in Israel. Pronouncing words correctly in any language is very important, or you may find yourself saying things you don’t mean!
If you’re an absolute beginner, it would be best to start with a book, a CD series, free PDF cheat sheets and preferably your Israeli friend who can help you. Or, you can start with HebrewPod101, for free!
Holidays in Israel can also be the perfect opportunity to practice your Hebrew! For the best experience, make sure to master at least Level 1 of your Hebrew lessons here on HebrewPod101 before you go on holiday to Israel. Then don’t be shy! Use it with every native speaker you encounter in every situation. Practicing continuously to speak a language is one of the most important habits if you want to become fluent. Or, if you’re a new subscriber to HebrewPod101 in a hurry to get to Israel, study Absolute Beginner Hebrew for Every Day to help you get by as a traveller - you will be surprised how far a little Hebrew can go!
HebrewPod101 is uniquely geared to help you master relevant, everyday vocabulary and phrases, pronounced correctly and in the right context - this will set you on the right track. Our courses are perfectly designed to help you in fun ways!
But do have a holiday first. Ideally you will enjoy a different culture with a visit, and enrich your life in ways you cannot imagine. Don’t wait till 2020 to learn Hebrew through HebrewPod101 though - it will open a whole new world for you!
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