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A Look at Rosh Hashanah In Israel

As summer ends,, the months ahead are made majestic not just by the changing of the seasons, but also by the dizzying holiday array stretched out before us. From now until March, it feels like we’re slipping from one holiday to the next, and it’s easy to get lost! Thankfully, we’ve got tons of great information to get you buzzed about the next holiday. Now, we want you to be excited about Rosh Hashanah in Israel. If you had to try that name a few times, I don’t blame you. It coats the tongue like honey and leaves you wondering if there’s magic in the words. So what is Rosh Hashanah? How do people celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Israel? Why should you take notice?

What is Rosh Hashanah?

Rosh Hashanah translated from Hebrew literally means “head of the year”, which makes the fact that it’s also called Jewish New Year make a lot of sense. It is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days, and while I’m not Jewish myself I have to tell you it’s hard to miss just how important this holiday is. Rosh Hashanah is a 2-day celebration that starts on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year. For those more familiar with the Gregorian calendar Rosh Hashanah usually falls between September and October. So, the dates look something like this:

  • 2019 – September 29 – October 1
  • 2020 – September 18 – September 20
  • 2021 – September 7 – September 8
  • 2022 – September 25– September 27
  • 2023September 15 – September 17

For the Jewish people that celebrate Rosh Hashanah it is a very personal time. You’ll find that every family has their own little twists on the holiday, but as a whole it is a time for reflection. People use Rosh Hashanah as a time to reflect, learn, grow, and make a fresh start. Friends and family come together to appreciate one another, and follow old traditions in the hopes of starting anew and moving forward free of past burdens and sins.

How Is Rosh Hashanah celebrated in Israel?

No country is so fully captivated by Rosh Hashanah as Israel, for obvious reasons. The country as a whole seems to hold its breath in excitement while preparations for these 2 days are under way. Businesses close town, synagogues are completely decked out, and everyone seems on their best behavior eager to sing liturgical songs and recite special prayers.

If you are visiting Israel during Rosh Hashanah prepare for immersion in Jewish traditions. While the shops may be closed down, the doors to the synagogues are open, and you can hear the shofar (ram’s horn) blasts on nearly every street. Each of the 100 (or in some cases 101) blasts from the shofar symbolize God’s rule over the world and remind the Jews of the commandments and their faith. Even if you don’t share their religion, the horn will likely cause you to pause and appreciate the stunning surroundings in Israel, and the faces of the devout that hear its call.

Traditional Foods for Rosh Hashanah

Of course, it is not all prayer and religious services. In Israel nothing means more than family, and what better way to come together than through sharing food? You’ll find an absolutely mouthwatering array of sweets leading up to and during Rosh Hashanah. Most people enjoy rich round challah bread, sometimes dotted with raisins, or carefully covered with honey. Others search for assortments of other sweets that often include honey cake paired with fragrant teas.

Honey and fruit is the iconic duo of Rosh Hashanah, symbolizing wealth and the promises of a prosperous and sweet future. With pomegranates just coming into their season during this time of year it is no wonder it is the fruit of choice during the holiday. It may stain your fingers and lips red, but the succulent fruit is easy to find and adored by everyone as the ultimate snack.

Some households will serve dishes of lamps or fish head, while others will supply gefilte fish and lekach. Every family has their own recipe, and if you are lucky enough to be invited to their table or sent home with a covered dish all your own, then know that you are truly valued. Each dish is made with loved and the hope that it will help you start your New Year journey off on the right foot.

Gifts For Rosh Hashanah

While businesses close during the actual holiday, many families send gifts early to be close to their loved ones in spirit. If you want to send a Rosh Hashanah gift to your loved ones in Israel, it is best to do it the week before. Baskets with fruit, especially apples and pomegranate, along with honey are the go-to gifts for the season. However, you may also wish to surprise them with something more personal, their favorite bottle of wine perhaps, or a spa gift so they can pamper themselves and truly relax.

Whatever you do, or wherever you are, the simple act of reaching out can mean the world to your Jewish friends and family. When in doubt, simply ask them how they celebrate. Listening to their traditions and how their family celebrates can be a gift in and of itself!

Now that you know when Rosh Hashanah is, what next?