In recent years Hanukkah Tour in Jerusalem became popular. While in 2016, there was one type of Hanukkah Tour, in 2017 there were already four different tour types. In this post, I will tell you about our visit to these tours.
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Hanukkah Tour In The Old City Of Jerusalem – 2016
About two weeks ago my daughter told me that as part of Hanukkah learning (in kindergarten), they also mentioned Jerusalem. They were told that Jerusalem is very beautiful during Hanukkah and she would like to visit and see all the lights. Several days later I saw a coupon for Hanukkah Tour in Jerusalem. It was a whole family tour and it was held not too late in the evening (18:00 till around 20:00). The ticket price was not expensive (42 NIS) and I decided to go for it.
Several days ago we joined the Hanukkah Tour and today I’m going to tell you about it. But first, if you are interested in other attractions in Jerusalem, check out my Jerusalem attractions page.
The beginning of Hanukkah Tour
As in most tours, the meeting point was Jaffa gate, just outside the old city.
Hanukkiah and Tower Of David in the background:
We arrived five minutes before 18:00, registered and the tour started at 18:15 (this gave us just enough time to stop by the public restroom next to Jaffa gate).
Our tour stickers. We were the green group:
After Jaffa Gate our next stop was Tower Of David:
On these stops, we got a lot of background information about Jerusalem and Hanukkah.
A view into one of the alleys:
Then we went to the roofs of Jerusalem and talked about the Hanukkah miracle. There are two versions what the miracle actually was. Either that the small jug was magically refilled each night or the oil was divided into eight small portions and each small portion, that shouldn’t last a day, was burning the whole day.
Then we talked about oil. There was a lot of olive oil inside the Temple, but when non-Jews touched the oil, it became impure and couldn’t be used. Greeks removed the seals from all oil jugs and the oil became impure. Judah Maccabee could say that it’s an imperative move and use the impure oil, but he decided to show the strength of faith and use only pure oil. And this leads us to our next question: “Why does Hanukkah last eight days?” Eight days is the time it took to go from Jerusalem to Galilee and bring pure oil. Meaning that after eight days they would have plenty of pure oil.
At the Jewish Quarter
Then we walked around the Jewish quarter and talked about hanukkiahs:
According to tradition, if you live on the ground floor then you put hanukkiah to the left to the entrance, and if you live on higher floors then you put hanukkiah on the window sill. Why left to the entrance? Mezuzah is always on the right side (when looking from the entrance), thus if you put hanukkiah on the left, the people who enter will be wrapped from both sides with holiness.
Who lights the hanukkiah? There is a difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. At Sephardi families, the father of the family lights the hanukkiah. And at Ashkenazi, everybody can light a hanukkiah. Moreover, since lighting the hanukkiah is considered a blessing, each family member can light his/her own. Thus, if you look at the photo above and see 7 hanukkiahs, this can mean 7 Sephardi families or one Ashkenazi family (or something in between).
In the old alleys:
After about 90 minutes into the tour, we went to a local bakery and were treated to doughnuts.
Four Sephardic Synagogues
Our next stop at this Hanukkah Tour was Four Sephardic Synagogues. In Yochanan ben Zakai Synagogue, two performers were waiting for us.
We lighted oil candles and then listened and sang Hanukkah songs.
The performers and our guide:
Yochanan ben Zakai Synagogue and Chanukiah:
Towards the end
Our last two stops were Hurva Synagogue and
gold-plated menorah on the way to the Western Wall.
At the Western Wall plaza, our Hanukkah Tour ended and we said goodbye to our guide. This was around 20:30 and we continued to the Western Wall.
The big Hanukkiah next to the Western Wall:
That was our last POI for that day. From there we headed back to Mamila parking.
Hanukkah Western Wall Tunnels Tour – 2017
In 2017, we wanted to try something different thus we joined the Western Wall Tunnels Tour. I preorder tickets online and on the third candle of Hanukkah, we joined a 17 o’clock tour.
We parked at Giv’at HaTahmoshet and used the light train to arrive at the old city (I wrote about reaching the Old City in Old City Of Jerusalem post).
The tour started at the Western Wall Tunnels, thus we hurried there.
At Western Wall Tunnels
Our tour started not far from the entrance, next to this arch to the right.
As it turns out this is the bottom part of the bridge’s arch. Which bridge? The bridge that led to the Temple Mount. We are one level beneath the ground and almost at the top of a high bridge. There are at least four more levels to the ground.
Over centuries people build levels upon levels and big parts of the old city are actually quite high above the ground.
This is a Mikveh:
Around fifty Mikveh were found near the Temple Mount. But only five of them are similar to this one. Most Mikveh has stairs from one side, but this one has stairs from all sides. Thus, researchers believe this is a public Mikveh.
Then we were led into a nearby room which is also a Mikveh. In that room, a guitar player waited for us. We lit the candles and sang several Hanukkah songs.
This tour is more oriented towards archeology and history lovers. Thus, it is less suitable for kids. My daughter was the only child and some parts were boring to her.
The Herodian hall:
Our next room was the Hall of Ages.
In this room, they performed depth excavations and each layer belongs to a different period. Our guide turned on and off different lamps and you could see more than two thousand years in front of you.
You can see the following periods: First Temple, Second Temple, Roman, Crusaders, Muslim, and Mamluk (I might have missed somebody). In this room, there were even findings from the tenth century BC.
Another interesting room was this one.
You can see two columns leading to two openings in the wall. These were actually fountains. You should keep in mind that though today you see a small room, each wall of the room could have been built during a different period.
We exiting the tunnels and headed to a viewpoint next to the Western Wall.
We received some more explanations and at this point, about ninety minutes after the tour started it was the end.
When the tour ended, we headed to the Western Wall and then went to the Jewish quarter.
After coffee with some sweets, we walked through the Jewish quarter and looked at different hanukkiah.
But it was getting late, so we headed back to the light train station.
Overall, Hanukkah Tours are quite nice. And I would definitely recommend it to adults and families with older children. Just keep in mind that in some cases Hanukkah is just an excuse, and the tour itself has little to do with the holiday. As long as it is fine by you, then join one of the tours.
Both the tours we visited were not suitable for preschoolers and barely fit for elementary. Thus, for families with younger children, I would recommend choosing the family tour.
I want to finish today’s post with a modern explanation to what Hanukkah miracle is (I saw this somewhere on the social networks): “Imagine you have a 10% battery on your phone and it’s enough to keep your phone alive for eight days.”
That’s all for today and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional nearby attractions check out Jerusalem attractions page.
Here are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.
And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.