Chanukah in Israel
On the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the Jewish world celebrates Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. The holiday, in memory of the victory of the Jewish rebellion against the Greek suppression of Judaism, symbolizes the Jews' everlasting struggle against different oppressors throughout history.
In Israel, the special Chanukah spirit begins a few weeks prior to the actual date. All bakeries and supermarkets sell sufganiyot, which is the Hebrew name for doughnuts, at least a month in advance. The tempting smell of all flavored doughnuts fills the air, which makes it impossible to resist.
An average Israeli will eat almost 7 doughnuts during the week of Chanukah, and only 20% won't eat one at all. (Each doughnut has an average of 400 calories.)
The Israeli educational system is closed through the holiday, and all school children enjoy a weeklong vacation. It's usually cold and rainy on Chanukah in Israel, so families are constantly looking for indoor activities. This is how Chanukah in Israel became the Holiday of Festivals. Through the years, the festival's "tradition" grew. It began with one annual musical festival and turned into a huge industry of musicals, shows, performances and new releases, all competing for the same shrinking pocket.
Every year there are about twenty different nationwide festivals, and many other smaller, local festivals for 2.5 million Israeli children and their families to enjoy.
But above all, Chanukah is associated with heroes, miracles, wonders, believing that everything and anything is possible. If the few Maccabee warriors were able to defeat the mighty Greeks and a few drops of pure olive oil lasted for eight full days, so can modern miracles happen.
On the eight days of Chanukah, the streets of Israel are decorated with colorful menorahs, and huge menorahs stand bright on all public building rooftops. Smaller menorahs shine from private homes' windows, and paper menorahs decorate store windows and shopping centers.
Chanukah, the Festive of Lights, illuminates past Maccabee heroes and day-to-day heroes, as well.
Fried potato pancakes, called latkes in Yiddish and levivot in Hebrew, are one of the most popular of Chanukah foods. While traditional latkes are made from potatoes, many creative twists to traditional latke recipes are available today. They include sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, leek, cheese and even tuna latkes.