A guide to the main public holidays of Israel

The cultural traditions of any country will be much told by the holidays that people living there celebrate. The Promised Land is no exception, because the holidays in Israel are an integral part of the life of Israelis. Most of the local holidays most directly relate to the religious events described in the sacred Jewish books.

Holidays in Israel

It should be noted that celebrations in Israel begin in the evening, since Jews believe that the next day begins after sunset. Another interesting feature is that when the holiday and mourning coincide, the latter is shifted to other days.

In this article, we will talk about the most significant holidays for the Israelites, and how they celebrate them.

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According to the religious beliefs of the Jews, six days a week need to work, and one to rest. Saturday is allotted for relaxation, as it is the last day of the week in the Jewish calendar. Every Saturday, the Jews celebrate Shabbat, a holiday appointed by God as early as the creation of the world.

Jewish Shabbat

On Friday evening, candles are lit in the houses, a blessing sounds – this means that Saturday has begun. Jews should have three solemn meals on Shabbat, and food for them is prepared in advance. Since you cannot cook hot dishes on Saturday, Jewish housewives are forced to show real miracles of ingenuity. Such famous dishes as kugol, cholnt, tsimes can be warm for a long time and at the same time they become even more delicious.

It is strictly forbidden on Shabbat not only to cook, but also to do any work. This day is considered a public holiday, even public transport does not go.


Purim is a holiday reminiscent of how the Jews who lived in the Persian Empire more than 2,400 years ago were saved from destruction.

Purim in Israel

The 14th and 15th Adar celebrate the Purim holiday in Israel – these dates usually occur on different dates in March or February according to the Gregorian calendar that is familiar to us. In 2019, Purim is celebrated on March 21.

Purim is a very joyful and cheerful holiday when noisy carnivals and theatrical performances are held in all cities of Israel.

Cakes "Haman's Ears"
“Haman’s Ears”

The obligatory component is the meal – plentiful and satisfying, with wine. The hostess always serves “Aman’s ears” – the so-called small open pies, in which there is a sweet or meat filling.

There are no public holidays in Purim. Traditionally, these days it is not recommended to do any business, but if there is a special need, it is allowed.


The oldest and most important Jewish holiday is Passover. It symbolizes the liberation of the Jewish people from the slavery of the Egyptians and the creation of their own state.

Passover lasts from 15 to 21 Nisan (Nisan corresponds to March – April). In 2019, 7 holidays fall on April 20 – 27.

In Passover, it is forbidden to eat bread and any products that have undergone a fermentation process. Moreover, they can not only be eaten, but also stored at home. At this time, only matzo can be eaten from flour products – unleavened cakes that the Jews ate when fleeing Egypt. It is important that no more than 18 minutes pass from kneading the dough to baking the mass – it is believed that during this time the fermentation process does not have time to begin. In addition to cooking on this holiday, no work can be done.

Festive seder

The central event of Passover is the Seder (order) – a festive meal that takes place on the evening of Nisan 14. The day that follows Seder is considered the first day of the holiday and a public holiday. The next 5 days are half-holidays, when state organizations do not work at all, and private ones usually work half a day. The last day of Passover is a full holiday and a state holiday. According to the Torah, 21 Nisans before the Jews dispersed the Red Sea, and then covered the Egyptians following in their wake. Therefore, 21 Nisans, Jews come to the sea, a river or any reservoir to read there “Song of the Sea.”

As a rule, Passover among the inhabitants of Israel is a time of mass holidays. And for foreign travelers arriving in this country – this is the most expensive tourist period of the year. Hotel rooms and any services for this season must be booked in advance for several months.

independence Day

The main national holiday of Israel is Independence Day, which is celebrated annually on May 14. It was May 14, 1948 that the existence of an independent State of Israel was recognized in the world.

Independence Day with fireworks

Independence Day is a day off, and in all cities of the country, festivities and parades with fireworks are held. Since there is no ban on driving on this holiday, Israelis go out on picnics in large numbers on private cars.

Lag b’Omer

Jewish holiday Lag Ba Omer

Lag b’Omer is celebrated on the 18th of Iyar, in 2019 this holiday falls on May 23rd.

According to ancient sources, the epidemic ended on Iyar 18, taking the lives of students of the greatest rabbi Akiva, the founder of the systematization of the Oral Torah. In the evening of the 17th Iyar, after sunset, make bonfires, shoot archery, arrange dances and other entertainment events.

In Lag b’Omer you can work, do haircuts and shave, hold weddings. Lag b’Omer is not a public holiday.


Shavuot - Torah Feast

50 days after Passover, 6 – 7 Sivan, Shavuot comes in Judaism. In 2019, it will be held on June 9 – 10.

It was precisely six Sivans that the Torah was granted to the Jews, and they pledged to be faithful to the Great Book always and everywhere. From that time on, the fate of the Jewish people was determined by devotion to God’s covenants, and even scattered throughout the planet, they remained a single nation.

Shavuot will also mark the end of the agricultural cycle and the beginning of a new season. In ancient times, two loaves were baked on this day and brought to the Temple.

From work in Shavuot, only cooking is allowed. This holiday is a weekend at the state level.

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Rosh Hashanah

In other words, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. The Jewish calendar begins with the month of Tishrei, so the Jews celebrate the coming of the New Year 1 and 2 Tishrei. In 2019, these dates coincide from September 30 and October 1.

Traditionally, on this day, during the service in the synagogue they blow the shofar, a Jewish musical instrument made from the horn of an animal. This action calls for repentance and symbolizes a challenge to the judgment of God.

Rosh Hashanah blows the shofar

The Jews are convinced that in Rosh Hashanah God sets what kind of life will be next year. Therefore, these days they make an analysis of their own actions, if possible, correct the mistakes made in order to earn the lost location of the Creator. The sincere belief of the Jews that the Almighty wants only good for everyone turns Rosh Hashan into a fun holiday.

Fish dish - a symbol of fertility

In Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to congratulate each other and give gifts, to arrange rich feasts. For a festive meal, dishes are prepared symbolizing the wish of a safe, good year. For example, fish dishes are a symbol of fertility, and fish heads cooked according to any recipe are a sign that you don’t have to trail in the tail. The sliced ​​carrots symbolize gold coins, and the sweet challah roll is a symbol of life.

In Israel, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated without exception, on this occasion, even public holidays are scheduled. From work only cooking is allowed.

Yom Kippur

Judgment Day (Yom Kippur) comes 10 tishrey, completing the 10-day cycle of prayers. In 2019, this day will come on October 9th.

Yom Kippur - time of strict fasting

In Yom Kippur parish, the life of Israel literally freezes: television and radio broadcasting does not work, transport does not go, and all state organizations, airports and border crossings are closed. Also, you can not drive a car, talk on a cell phone, wash, walk in leather shoes, or have sex. Yom Kippur is a time of strict fasting, when you can only pray, analyze your life, sincerely repent of committed misconduct and ask for forgiveness.

When the sun sets and a third star appears in the sky, the Gate of Mercy, through which the people of Israel turned their prayers to the Creator, will close and Yom Kippur will end.

Tourists need to remember that on Judgment Day in Israel there are no entertainments or even just trips.

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Sukkot - Holiday of the Huts

Sukkot lasts 7 days, its beginning is 15 tishrey. In 2019, the Sukkot festival in Israel will be October 14 – 20.

“Hebrew” in Hebrew means “hut” or “booths”, and this name perfectly conveys the features of the celebration. In Sukkot, Jews are obliged to live in huts built by themselves, paying tribute to those who wandered through the vast desert for 40 years. The holiday is a symbol of the fact that the people of Israel remember and honor their ancestors and their historical past.

A few days before the holiday, numerous fairs open in all the towns of Israel, where they sell everything they need to build huts and decorate them. The walls of the hut can be made from anything (even light curtains are suitable), but the roof needs to be made only from plant material: palm, spruce, bamboo branches or special mats.

Sukkot hut

During Sukkot, improvised booths in Israel can be seen anywhere: in the front gardens, on the balconies, on the verandas, in the yards, even in parking lots for cars. Now few dare to live in the thickets all 7 days, but everyone is trying to organize meals there.

The kids bring the greatest joy, because for them time in a hut is a real adventure. Especially when you consider that all state and private educational institutions are closed for a whole week in Sukkot. All enterprises and organizations receive an official state holiday only on the first day.


Every year, 25 Kislev and 8 subsequent days, a traditional holiday is held in Israel, about which even people far from Judaism have heard. This is Hanukkah – in 2019, it will be on December 23-30.

Hanukkah Celebrations

Hanukkah is the memory of a miracle that took place in 164 BC. The temple in Jerusalem was desecrated by the Syrians, but after expelling them, 25 Kislev Jews resumed worship. In the temple they found a vessel with a small amount (for a day) of oil for the lamps. But a real miracle happened – it lasted for 8 days.

Therefore, during the celebration of Hanukkah, the Israeli people light candles for 8 days in a row. On the first festive evening, 1 light should burn, in the second – 2, and only on the last festive evening, the eighth in a row, you need to light 8 candles.

There is another tradition that Israel adheres to Hanukkah: for children buy a lot of gifts.

Like many holidays in Israel, Hanukkah is accompanied by a ban on any work. Hanukkah government offices have a weekend.

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