The Best Things to Do in Jerusalem in December
Jerusalem events in December highlight the fact that this is, of course, holiday time.
Hannukah is the main feature of the month. Although this year, the eight-day holiday actually begins in November, we still get to enjoy the last five days of it at the beginning of December.
With kids being off from schools, you'll usually find a whole array of activities for children during the eight days of the holiday. They run the gamut from hands-on crafts festivals to activities at the mall, puppet shows and concerts.
Hannukah dreidels in Jerusalem's Market. Photo: Adiel Lo, ccby3.0
The same is true for adults - there's usually a bewildering choice of new family activities or concerts for grownups being offered all over town.
Christmas in Israel, on the other hand, is a more introspective, subdued affair than in the rest of the world.
And in addition to the holidays, there are several cultural Jerusalem events that highlight December year after year.
For an up-to-date listing of daily Jerusalem events happening in December 2013, or to sync the details of a particular event to your own mobile calendar, please check here.
This is one of the highlights of this time of year.
Chanukah in Israel has its own special flavor and scents: You know Chanukah is around the corner when you start seeing and smelling the trays of fresh doughnuts in the shops. (Bake your own taste of Chanukah with our Israeli baked doughnut recipe here.) They're called sufganiyot over here and you won't find them at any other time of year, so grab one while you can!
Sufganiyot at Machane Yehuda. Photo: Yonina, ccby3
Stroll through the religious neighborhoods of Geula and Meah Shearim and you’ll see menorahs, oil lamps, candles and wicks galore. The preferred tradition in Jerusalem is to light oil lights rather than candles.
In addition, Israelis are particular is referring
to what we call a “menorah” as a “chanukiah” – an eight-day Chanukah lamp. They reserve the word “menorah” for the
seven-branched menorah that stood in the Temple, of which you can see a real-sized model in the Old City by the Temple Institute.
Another Israeli tradition that makes the holiday special is to light the chanukiah outside, in order to better publicize the holiday’s miracles.
This means that many families place theirs in the street, in glass boxes. Others light them on their windowsills, so that even if they light inside, the ligths will be visible from the street.
Take a walk through the quaint neighborhoods of Jerusalem on a Chanukah night and spot the lights – it’s heartwarming and very romantic. (Find Chanukah menorahs – chanukias – and other Chanukah gifts in our Chanukah store or sign up for an online Hebrew course and get a free silver menorah.)
If you want to participate in a unique nighttime exploration of the city, join a Candle Light Jerusalem Scavenger Hunt that combines the fun of a Scavenger Hunt with the magical mystery of Chanukah nights in Jerusalem. (See below for details.)
Hannukah menorah. Photo: slgckgc, ccby2
There are also many Jerusalem events and holiday-themed activities for kids, such free shows for kids at Malha Mall and a variety of activities, arts and crafts, science workshops and performances at the Bible Lands Museum, the Bloomfield Science Museum and the Israel Museum.
There’s more of the same for kids plus a lot more for adults at the Mamilla Mall, along with an exhibit of menorahs along the pedestrian mall.
When is Hannukah:
This year Hannukah runs from sundown November 28 (first night candle-lighting is November 27) through December 5, 2013.
Public Candle Lighting Ceremonies: You can join the crowds for festive
public candle lighting ceremonies at various point around the city, including Nahalat Shiva Street, Kikar Safra and at Mamilla Mall. These usually take place between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. except on Fridays, and later on Saturday nights. We'll post exact times as they are made available.
We always highly recommend Jerusalem Scavenger Hunts as one of the more intriguing and creative Jerusalem events. At Hannukah time, they're extra special. Experience Chanukah in Israel like you never have before.
By the Hannukah lights, you'll explore the streets, see the sights, hear the stories and feel the vibe of Jerusalem's picturesque neighborhoods.
There are Open Hunts scheduled for individuals or groups smaller than five people. (Group hunts are available every day. )
December 1, at 10:30 in the Old City. (Daytime hunt)
December 3, at 17:15 in the Old City. (Candlelight)
Tickets: 80 shekels for adults, 60 for kids over 5 years old. Advanced registration required - space is limited.
Group hunts for larger families or groups are available every day except Shabbat during Chanukah. They include:
Book these early, especially the jeep tours, while there are still places available!
See Jerusalem through a different lens. This Hannukah, take a special guided walk for photographers through Jerusalem’s side streets.
The walk is for both amateur photography enthusiasts and professionals. The small group size and slow pace allow you time to set up and really get those special shots.
Suitable for children over age 10 with camera.
Cost: 50 shekels per person or 250 shekels per family/group
Rose Garden and Bird Sanctuary - December 10, 2013; 10:00.
Liberty Bell Park, Yemin Moshe, Windmill - December 2, 2013; 15:30 and December 25, at 9:30.
Advance booking required. Please use the form below to pre-register or to request additional details.
Increasingly, musical Jerusalem events draw first-tier artists from all over the world, and the Jazz Festival is no different. An impressive roster of performers will be performing every night for nine days straight, which means that if you’re a Jazz freak, you could spend a fabulous Chanukah immersing yourself in jazz each night of the holiday.
When: 28 November to 6 December, 2013
Where: Harmony Hall, 27 Hillel St.
A feature of year-end Jerusalem events, the Jewish Film Festival brings together Jewish film and filmmakers from Israel and abroad. The program includes full-length features, as well as a good number of documentaries and shorts.
Selections for the festival – usually over 50 of them screened in a week-long period – include movies that explore themes of Jewish identity, relations between the Diaspora and the State of Israel, Jewish faith, culture and relationships with other religions and peoples.
There is always a large subset of films dealing with Holocaust issues, in their own category.
In addition, each year, the festival organizers select classic films that showcase either a particular aspect of Jewish cinema or a particular Jewish filmmaker or movement.
There is so much to choose from that there’s bound to be something for everyone.
The festival is usually held during the Jewish holiday of Hannukah, or in the week immediately preceding or after it, so for many people, it has become one of those Jerusalem events that's a feature of the season.
This year, the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival takes place:
When: November 30 - December 6,
Where: Cinemathetque – Israel Film Archive, 11 Hevron Road.
Admission: 38 shekel per movie. Tickets go on sale December 2, 2012. Order them online at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival website, where you can also view the full movie schedule. Tickets also go on sale at the door one hour before the first screening of the day until the last show begins.
Hamshushalayim is a creation of the Jerusalem Municipality, meant to attract tourists during what is otherwise a typical lull following the high of the Sukkos holiday – the three first weeks of December. This year, of course, the first two weekends coincide with Chanukah, which only adds to the excitement.
In an effort to encourage more visitors to the capital, participating hotels offer three-day special rates for the first three weekends of the month and many restaurants offer discounts as well. Over the years, it's become one of the standard December Jerusalem events.
The funny sounding name for the series of events is a combination of Hamshush and Yerushalayim. Hamshush is army slang for a long weekend and is an abbreviation of yom Hamishi (Thursday), yom Shishi (Friday) and Shabbat (Saturday). Mix it up with the Hebrew name for Jerusalem and that's what you get: Hamshushalayim!
When: November 28-30; December 5-7, 12-14, -19-21
Where: Ask your hotel if they are offering the Hamshushalayim special: 50% off the first night on a 2-night reservation for any of the first three weekends in December.
Many tourist attractions are free or offer substantial discounts. There’s also a burst of street entertainment on offer: Street musicians and concerts, ranging from opera, to klezmer, a cappella performances and Russian folk songs just to name a few.
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