The Jewish holidays are celebrated in Israel officially and nationally and vacation days are set in accordance with them. Judaism has its own calendar, the Jewish calendar, which has 12 lunar months based on the cycle of the moon. The Hebrew month starts with the first appearance of the new moon, the 15th of the month is when the moon is full and the month ends when the moon disappears (prior to its reappearance).
The Jewish holidays, some of which are very ancient, are based on the seasons of the year and mark the agricultural cycle. A calendar based on the appearance of the new moon, however, is not compatible with the natural cycle of a 365-day year (the length of time required for the earth to complete its orbit of the sun). A system was therefore developed in order to synchronize the lunar months with the solar year. Since the very beginnings of Jewish tradition, the custom of a leap year was instituted. Every two or three years, based on precise calculations, a year will have 13 months instead of 12, thus maintaining the synchrony between the lunar month system (and the Jewish holidays) and the seasons of the year. The “leap” - or doubled - month is always Adar, the sixth month in the Jewish calendar (approximately March-early April).
Unlike the Gregorian calendar, in which the days are counted from midnight of one night until midnight the following night, the days on the Jewish calendar are counted from sunset of one day until sunset of the next day. The Sabbath (Shabbat) therefore begins on Friday evening, and is called Erev Shabbat, and businesses in Israel close early on Friday afternoon. Shabbat ends on Saturday evening, called Motsa’ei Shabbat. The Jewish holidays similarly begin and end in the evening.
Some of the holidays in Israel are religious holidays connected with Judaism, while others are national holidays, connected with the history of the state since its establishment. The religious holidays are usually celebrated in a family or community setting, with each of the many Jewish ethnic groups in Israel observing its own customs alongside the Jewish laws for each holiday. Religious Jews observe the holidays according to long-standing traditions, which usually include special prayers. Secular Jews also observe the holidays, but over the years each family or social community has developed different holiday customs, which usually include large family dinners.
The cycle of the Jewish holidays begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which usually coincides with late September and early October. Rosh Hashanah is followed by Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (the holiday of Booths). During each of these holidays there are holy days, on which government offices and businesses are closed. Israelis tend to call Tishrei “the holiday period,” and use their days off work to go on vacation. Quite often important matters are postponed until “after the holidays.” Visitors to Israel should take into account that certain businesses will be closed for many days during this period, and hotels and vacation spots will be full of Israelis on vacation.
The second holiday period on the Jewish calendar is in the spring, when the holidays of Purim, Pesach (Passover) and Independence Day are observed, in the Hebrew months of Adar, Nissan and Iyar, which correspond with March, April and May. During Pesach many businesses are closed and the many days off work enable Israelis to go away on vacations.
Finally, another vacation period that has nothing to do with the Jewish calendar is the school vacation period - July and August. During these months, and particularly in August, many businesses and offices are closed for a week or two and all or most of the workers go on their annual vacations with their families, in Israel or abroad.
Rosh Hashanah, the holiday that marks the beginning of the Jewish year, is in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which coincides with late September and early October...
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Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most important holiday in Judaism. It is a day of fasting and prayer that is celebrated on the 10th of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year...
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Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)
Sukkot, or Feast of Booths, is the third holiday in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, and is one of the most important Jewish holidays. Sukkot is one of the three pilgrimage holidays, when the whole Jewish people would come to Jerusalem in ancient times, when the Holy Temple was there, and would offer animal and grain sacrifices. Sukkot is a particularly joyous holiday that combines religious and agricultural elements...
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Unlike most of the major Jewish holidays, Chanukah’s origin is not in the Bible, but rather in events that happened later. This is a holiday that lasts eight days and begins on the 25th...
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This holiday has its origins not in the Bible, but rather in the Mishna, which was written in the early 3rd century CE. It is primarily an agricultural holiday, as evinced by its other name, New Year of Trees...
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Purim is one of the happiest and most joyous holidays in Jewish tradition, a holiday whose religious precepts include being happy, and even getting drunk. This is a holiday that allows even the most serious Torah scholars to get caught up in the spirit of amusement, and enjoy the carnival atmosphere..
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Pesach, or Passover, is a major holiday in Jewish tradition, and is one of the three pilgrimage holidays, along with Sukkot and Shavuot. These are the holidays on which the whole Jewish people would come to Jerusalem in ancient times, when the Holy Temple was there, and would offer animal and grain sacrifices. Since the destruction of the Temple, a few of the holiday traditions have been retained, without the pilgrimage and the sacrifices, and many new traditions have been added...
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Holocaust Remembrance Day
Yom Hasho’a, Israel’s Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and Heroism, is held on the 27th day of Nissan (towards the end of April or beginning of May), one week after Pessah (Passover)... Read more about Holocaust Remembrance day
Yom Hazikaron – Remembrance Day for the
Fallen of Israel’s Wars.
Yom Hazikaron, the Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Terror Victims is marked every year on the fourth of Iyar (towards the end of April or beginning of May,) one week after the Holocaust Remembrance Day and two weeks after Pessah (Passover.)...
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Independence Day – Yom Ha’atsma’ut
Independence Day, Israel national holiday, marks Israel’s Declaration of Independence with the end of the British Mandate. It is the only full holiday in the calendar decreed by law without a tradition of hundreds or thousands of years...
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Jerusalem Day is a national holiday marking the liberation of the city and its reunification after the Six Day war. The day is held on the 28th of Iyar (usually from mid-May to the end of the month,) the day Israeli soldiers liberated the eastern part of the city in 1967...
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Lag ba-Omer is the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, which starts on the second night of Pesach and ends on Shavuot. The counting of the Omer is a ritual that dates back to ancient times, when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem (see Shavuot)...
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Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, is one of the three pilgrimage holidays, along with Pesach and Sukkot. These are the holidays on which the whole Jewish people would come to Jerusalem in ancient times, when the Holy Temple was there, and would offer animal and grain sacrifices...
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A day of mourning marking the destruction of the First Temple, destroyed in 586 BCE. by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and the destruction of the Second Temple, destroyed in 70 CE. by Titus, emperor of Rome. This date also marks the beginning of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, by order of the Spanish monarchy...
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