In recent years Hanukkah Tour in Jerusalem gained popularity. And in this guide, I will share my experiences.
While in 2016, there was one type of Hanukkah Tour, in 2017, there were already four different tour types. In this article, 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 they also mentioned Jerusalem as part of Hanukkah learning (in kindergarten). They were told that Jerusalem is wonderful 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 high (42 NIS), and I decided to go for it.
We joined the Hanukkah Tour several days ago, and today I will tell you about it. But first, if you are interested in other attractions in Jerusalem, check out the Jerusalem page.
The beginning of the Hanukkah Tour
Like most tours, the meeting point was Jaffa gate, just outside the old city.
Hanukkiah and the Tower Of David (n 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 the Tower Of David:
At 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 of what the miracle was. Either the small jug was magically refilled each night, or the oil was divided into eight small portions, and each small amount, which should not 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 it, it became impure and could not be used. Greeks removed the seals from all oil jugs, and the oil became impure. Judah Maccabee could say that it was an imperative move and use 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, which means 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, you put Hanukkiah to the left of the entrance, and if you live on higher floors, you put Hanukkiah on the window sill. Why to the left of the door? Mezuzah is always on the right side (when looking from the entrance). Thus, if you put the Hanukkah menorah 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. In 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 their own. Thus, if you look at the photo above and see seven hanukkiahs, this can mean seven Sephardi families or one Ashkenazi family (or something in between).
In the old city 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 lit oil candles and then listened to and sang Hanukkah songs.
The performers and our guide:
Yochanan ben Zakai Synagogue and Chanukiah:
Our last two stops were Hurva Synagogue and
gold-plated menorah on the way to the Western Wall.
Our Hanukkah Tour ended at the Western Wall plaza, 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 point of interest for that day. From there, we returned 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 preordered tickets online, and on the third candle of Hanukkah, we joined a tour at 17:00.
We parked at Giv’at HaTahmoshet and used the light train to arrive at the old city (you can find directions in the guide to the Old City Of Jerusalem).
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 have built levels upon levels, and big parts of the old city are 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 toward archeology and history lovers. Thus, it is less suitable for kids. My daughter was an only child, and some parts were boring to her.
Our next room was the Hall of Ages.
In this room, they performed depth excavations. Each layer belongs to a different period. Our guide turned on and off various 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 actual 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 fountains. You should remember that though today you see a small room, each wall of the room could have been built during a different period.
We exited 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.
We headed to the Western Wall and the Jewish quarter when the tour ended.
After coffee with some sweets, we walked through the Jewish quarter and looked at different Hanukkiahs.
But it was getting late, so we headed back to the light train station.
Overall, Hanukkah Tours are lovely. And I would recommend it to adults and families with older children. Remember that in some cases, Hanukkah is just an excuse, and the tour has little to do with the holiday. If it is acceptable to you, join one of the tours.
Both tours we visited were unsuitable for preschoolers and somewhat fit for elementary. Thus, I would recommend the Old City tour for families with younger children.
I want to finish today’s post with a modern explanation of the Hanukkah miracle (I saw this somewhere on social networks): “Imagine you have a 10% battery on your phone, and it is 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.
Additional ResourcesHere 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.