Many businesses and transportation organizations are closed on “Shabbat,” which runs from Friday afternoon through Saturday night, and many locations do not reopen or resume service until Sunday morning. The same is true for important Jewish or national holidays, so be sure to prepare ahead.
Weekends and Public Holidays
Depending on the festival or holiday, various degrees of activity will cease in Israel, and different regions will experience varying levels of activity on certain days. On most holidays, public transit is entirely shut down. In Israel, holidays are observed according to the Jewish calendar, which means that the Gregorian date varies from year to year, but it tends to occur within a 6-week period. A new day starts at sunset in Jewish custom, thus Jewish festivals begin on the eve of the official date (not at midnight).
Official national holidays
- Between September 5 and October 5, the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) occurs.
- Fast The Day of Gedaliah (Tsom Gedalyah ben Ahikam) occurs two days after Rosh Hashanah begins (New Year)
- Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) occurs between September and October. Everything grinds to a stop on this holiest day in the Jewish calendar: all companies, banking, shopping, entertainment, restaurants, public and private transportation, and so on. The streets of secular towns are flooded with children riding bicycles, rollerblades, and skateboards. The mobility of emergency vehicles is restricted.
- Between September 19 and October 19, the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) (Sukkot) takes place. Only the first and final days are national holidays, although there is considerable interruption on the days in between.
- Between September and October, the Assembly of the Eighth Day (Simchat Torah/Shemini Atzeret) takes place. On the previous evening, street festivals and dancing are popular in most cities and towns.
- The 5th of November is Yitzhak Rabin’s Remembrance Day (Yom Hazikaron le Yitzhak Rabin). It is a day of remembrance.
- Between November 27 and December 27, the Feast of Lights (Hanukkah or’re-dedication’) takes place. It is observed rather than observed as a holiday, and is commemorated by lighting an extra candle each evening until all eight branches of the Hanukkyah are lighted, as well as consuming suvganiot, jelly doughnuts.
- Tevet’s Tenth Fast (Tsom Asarah b-Tevet)
- The New Year of the Trees (Tu Bi’shvat) occurs between 24 February and 26 March. The Fast of Esther (Taanit Ester) Memorial Feast for the Triumph of Esther (Purim) falls between 24 February and 26 March (between 25 February and 27 March in Jerusalem.) On this day, children and adults dress up in costumes, and street parades are popular. Purim is observed one day later in Jerusalem than in the rest of Israel, and is known as Shushan Purim.
- Between the 26th of March and the 25th of April is Passover (Pesach) (Only the first and last days are national holidays, however there may be some disruption during the intermediate days). During this week, no leavened bread or grain items are sold or offered in most locations (including beer and some alcohols).
- Between 1 April and 1 May, the seventh day of Passover (Shvi’i shel Pesach) falls.
- Between 7 April and 7 May is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaZikaron LaShoah VeLaGevurah). At 10:00 a.m., air raid sirens blast throughout the nation, and the whole country observes a minute of silence in honor of Holocaust victims. On this day and its eve, all places of amusement are closed.
- Between the 14th and 14th of April, Fallen Soldiers Remembrance Day (Yom Hazikaron) is observed. On the eve and in the morning, air raid sirens sound, and the whole nation observes a minute of silence in honor of the country’s dead troops and terror attack victims.
- Independence Day (Yom Ha-Atzmaut) is celebrated on the 15th of April or 15th of May. On the eve, there are large street festivals, city-wide celebrations, and fireworks displays. Sightseeing and picnics are common ways to commemorate the day.
- On the eve of the 33rd day of the Omer (Lag Ba’omer), bonfires are popular.
- Parades and celebrations are held in Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day (Yom Herut Yerushalayim).
- Pentecost (Shavuot) occurs between May 15 and June 14.
- Tsom Shiva Asar b-Tammuz (Tsom Shiva Asar b-Tammuz) is a fast observed on the seventeenth day of Tammuz.
- The Tisha B’Av fast commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples on the Ninth of Av.
- The fifteenth of Av (Tu B’Av) is a Jewish holiday. Love Festival is a celebration of love.