Each year in the September-October time frame Israel celebrates the Jewish High Holidays. You, as part of Career Israel, an Israel program for young adults, may have heard of the term but since there are quite a few holidays under that one title, let’s clarify what these include, when they happen, and the traditions around each holiday.
The holidays are a combination of joy and formality along with prayers, feasts and family gatherings.
The season begins during the month of Elul, when there’s a declaration of the sacred days ahead through the sounding of the shofar. One of the main traditions of this month and throughout the High Holidays is the tradition of Selichot: Communal prayers for divine forgiveness said during the holiday season or on Jewish fast days.
This is the official start of the Jewish year as we crown God, king of the universe through celebration, shofar blasts, and prayers. The custom of Selichot starts right before Rosh Hashanah and takes place throughout the Ten Days of Repentance, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In 2019, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on September 29th and ends on October 1st.
A week after Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. This is the holiest Jewish holiday. We fast for 25 hours, do not work, drive or do any physical task, and pray at synagogue. Not all Jews in Israel abide by these traditions but all use Yom Kippur as a day of rest and reflection.
This year, 2019, Yom Kippur begins at sundown on October 8th and ends at sundown on October 9th.
A festive holiday of food and tradition, commemorating the Jews’ flight from Egypt and sheltering when in the desert.
On the first two days of the holiday work is forbidden, then, during what is known at Chol Hamoed (literally, “the weekday of the holiday”, “intermediate period” of the festivals of Sukkot)
we dwell and sleep in the Sukkah. At the tail end of the holiday, we have two days of rejoicing with the Torah, which is called Simchat Torah.
This year, 2019, Sukkot and Simchat Torah are from October 13 to the 22nd.
While on Career Israel, our program of young adults, we recommend experiencing the atmosphere and traditions of holidays in Israel, especially the High Holidays, as they embody both Jewish and Israeli culture.
Start with a visit to a synagogue, this is where it all starts. Put on a clean button-up shirt and walk over to one of these synagogues in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem:
Frishman 23 (corner of Ben Yehuda)
This synagogue is one of the oldest in Tel Aviv and its services are conducted in both English and Hebrew. It’s located in the heart of Tel Aviv and has a dynamic and spiritual air to it while welcoming all people of all backgrounds. It is very popular among young Jewish singles, couples, and families.
Ben Yehuda 86
A beautiful synagogue hosting different communities from all across the religious spectrum. A very warm and friendly center, welcoming people from around the world and often has services in multiple languages – English, French, Italian and others.
Ben Yehuda 126
Both International visitors and local Israelis feel very comfortable at this synagogue as it accepts all types of observances and levels of familiarity with Jewish customs.
Baka Neighborhood, Jerusalem
A reform synagogue that puts emphasis on singing and on community participation as it welcomes visitors, both religious and those that are not, to experience the holidays or Shabat.
Jerusalem Great Synagogue
56 King George, Jerusalem
Coming to services at this great and unique synagogue is an opportunity that should not be missed. The architecture, the sounds, and the people from all walks of life make the Jewish tradition really come to life here as we welcome the New Year.
During your Career Israel program try to get a feel for the holidays during your new adventure and sit through a synagogue service or two to welcome in the Jewish New Year.