Our MITF Fellows have celebrated Hanukkah with loved ones, traveled, and embraced the festive atmosphere in Israel. BINA had the opportunity to interview Fellows Alexa and Noam to discuss their experiences celebrating Hanukkah in Israel, their favorite parts about the holiday, and more. Read on to find out their thoughts and how they’ve been celebrating!
Is this your first time celebrating Hanukkah in Israel? If so, how does it compare to your usual celebrations at home?
Noam: Yes! This is my first time celebrating Chanukah in Israel. I’ve been celebrating at home with my friends and Israeli family. I’ve been lighting the candles, singing songs, and eating sufganiyot and latkes. However, something I love about this holiday in Israel is the public community candle lightings. I got the chance to take part in candle lightings in a restaurant, a bar, and even at a random intersection on the street! It makes me so happy to see Israelis come together to celebrate the holiday as a community.
Alexa: This is my first time celebrating Hannukah in Israel and without my family. Hannukah in the states, for me, is usually very intimate and only with my family. It was hard at first being without family but seeing the way Israel lights up with Hannukah decorations and hannukiot in the street is magical. There are sufganiyot around every corner and a really happy energy throughout the country.
What have you enjoyed most about celebrating Hanukkah in Israel?
Noam: I love lighting the candles every night with so many different people, and feeling a sense of family and community no matter where I am. Obviously, I enjoy eating all the delicious oily foods that I can find in any store during the week that we celebrate Chanukah. But I think the thing I love most about celebrating in Israel compared to celebrating back home in Canada, is walking around the residential neighborhoods of Israel. I’ve witnessed families gather outside of their homes to light the candles together at sunset – and by the time it gets dark, the streets are illuminated by candlelight. It’s such a beautiful sight.
Alexa: My favorite part of celebrating Channukah in Israel has been seeing everyone light their hannukiot. Throughout Israel you can feel all the hanukiot being lit at once. I’m most looking forward to spending the last few nights of Channukah and Shabbat with my host teacher and her family!
Have you been doing any Hanukkah activities with the students at your schools?
Noam: I was able to teach my students about my Chanukah traditions back home, and they taught me about what they do at home with their families for the holiday. We got to learn a lot about different traditions around the world.
Alexa: At school we did a lot of art activities to cover the school in decorations. It was awesome to see the students get excited about hanging decorations, but also art projects are an easy fun way to communicate with them, teach the colors and Channukah symbols in English, and overall have fun.
In general, how have you been celebrating the holiday so far?
Noam: I’ve been visiting some family and friends, and sharing delicious meals with them. I’ve also been going on day trips around Israel to see how different cities celebrate. So far, my favourite trip has been to Haifa. The city is decorated with lights, and it’s just so beautiful to walk around the city and feel so immersed in the culture and traditions.
Alexa: I have been making sure to light candles every night and although not easy, trying to schedule a time to light candles with my family at home. And of course making sure to sample sufganiya in every bakery I pass.
What is your favorite aspect of Hanukkah and why?
Noam: My favourite part of Chanukah is the traditions. I love spending time with people I love. I love sitting around a table, singing songs, and eating good food. I love the happiness that this holiday brings to everyone who celebrates. I’m so glad I got to experience celebrating the holiday in Israel. It was a very special experience for me.
Alexa: Channukah is one of my favorite holidays. The incredible miracle of the Jews overcoming every obstacle and coming out victorious is inspiring. Being in Israel makes me feel so connected to the miracle and so grateful to have Israel exist. My favorite part of the holiday as a child was of course the presents, but as I got older and learned more, lighting candles became my favorite part. For a brief moment, you’re praying, sitting in the light of the flames and nothing else matters. It is incredibly grounding and beautiful.
Alexa and Noam, BINA MITF Tel Aviv+ Fellows