Israel’s Calendar of Events Key Dates to Consider When Traveling to Israel

Revised and Updated - April 2024

Planning Your Trip to Israel

A trip to Israel promises an encounter with rich history, captivating landscapes, and diverse cultures. Throughout the year Israel’s calendar of events is filled with a variety of religious holidays and cultural celebrations, each leaving its mark on the travel landscape, attracting visitors from all over the world. Planning an optimized travel experience requires some basic understanding of Israel’s calendar of events as it may significantly impact various aspects of your trip planning. For example:

 

    • Accommodations: Popular holidays and peak seasons often lead to surging demand and limited availability, making it essential to plan and book well in advance.
    • Transportation: Increased tourist influx during major events can lead to congestions of roads and public transportation, impacting travel times and logistics.
    • Attractions: Certain sites and attractions might have restricted access or altered hours during specific holidays, requiring adjustments to your itinerary.
    • Prices: Flight tickets and accommodation prices can fluctuate significantly depending on the time of year, offering opportunities for budget-conscious travelers to plan around less crowded periods.
    • Cultural immersion: Participating in local celebrations allows you to experience the heart of Israeli culture firsthand, creating lasting memories and fostering deeper connections.

       

Understanding Israel’s dynamic calendar of events is crucial for any one intending to visit Israel. It is my hope that after reading this guide you will be able to plan an effective itinerary around key events or in between them, reduce costs by getting better deals, anticipate potential challenges and avoid disappointments, take part in unique local celebrations, and maximize your travel experience in Israel overall.

 

So let’s start navigating through the essential dates and events that may impact travel to Israel, but first a short explanation is required.

Prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalemin in Shavuot

Understanding Israel's Calendar of events

  • In Israel, the Gregorian calendar is widely used for secular and administrative purposes, adhering to global standards for scheduling events, business operations, and daily life. However, Jewish holidays follow the Jewish calendar, which operates on a lunar-based system. Lunar months are shorter than solar months, causing a misalignment of dates between Jewish holidays and dates on the Gregorian calendar.

  • As a result of these differences in calendar systems, Jewish holidays fall on different dates each year in the Gregorian calendar and appear to shift annually in relation to it. This can sometimes lead to confusion for travelers and visitors, as dates for Jewish holidays may not align with expected dates based on the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, it’s essential to consult both Jewish and Gregorian calendars to accurately schedule your visit, especially if you wish to observe or participate in Jewish holiday celebrations during your time in Israel. 

  • Similarly, Muslim holidays follow the Islamic calendar, which is also based on a lunar cycle. This means that Muslim holidays may vary each year in relation to the Gregorian calendar. Travelers planning a visit to Israel should be aware of these differences in calendar systems and consult relevant resources to ensure they accurately plan their itinerary, taking into account both Jewish and Muslim holidays.

israel traffic

Jewish Holidays

  • Rosh Hashanah: Occurring in September, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, symbolizing a time of reflection and introspection. Traditional customs include blowing the shofar (ram’s horn) and eating symbolic sweet foods like apples dipped in honey for a sweet year ahead.

  • Yom Kippur: Usually in September or October, Yom Kippur is the holiest day in Judaism, marked by fasting, prayer, and repentance as individuals seek forgiveness and spiritual renewal.

  • Sukkot: Typically in September or October, Sukkot commemorates the Israelites’ wandering in the desert. Observers build sukkahs (temporary shelters) and celebrate with meals, prayers, and festive gatherings.

  • Simhat Torah: Typically falls in late September or early October. It celebrates the completion of the annual cycle of Torah readings and is marked by joyful processions, singing, dancing, and the rolling of the Torah scrolls, symbolizing the continuous cycle of learning and renewal in Jewish tradition.

  • Hanukkah: Taking place in December, Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The holiday is celebrated by lighting the menorah, eating traditional fried foods and exchanging gifts.

  • Purim: Celebrated in February or March, Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people from the Persian Empire, as recounted in the Book of Esther. It is celebrated with festive meals, costume parties, and the reading of the Megillah (Book of Esther).

  • Passover (Pesach): Celebrated in March or April, Passover commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Families gather for Seder meals, retelling the story of Exodus, and refraining from eating leavened bread.

  • Lag BaOmer: Usually occurring in May, Lag BaOmer marks a break in the period of mourning between Passover and Shavuot. It is observed with joyous outdoor festivities, including bonfires and picnics, symbolizing renewal and spiritual upliftment in Jewish tradition.

  • Shavuot: Falling in May or June, Shavuot marks the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and the harvest of the first fruits. It is celebrated with all-night Torah study sessions and the consumption of traditional dairy foods.

  • 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av): This day, typically falling in July or August, commemorates various tragedies in Jewish history, including the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. For many Jews it is a day of mourning, fasting and participating in religious services.

jewish holiday celebration

Muslim Holidays

  • Ramadan: The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by fasting from dawn until sunset to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.
  • Eid al-Fitr: Celebrated at the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr is a joyous occasion marking the end of fasting. Families gather for feasts, prayers, and festivities, often including giving of gifts and charity to those in need.
  • Eid al-Adha: Also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. Families celebrate with prayers, feasts, and the sharing of meat from sacrificed animals.

Israeli National Days

  • Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah): Observed in April or May, solemnly commemorates the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust. This day is marked by ceremonies, memorials, and educational programs, fostering remembrance and reflection nationwide. Travelers to Israel during this time may encounter closures of most places of entertainment, as the country observes this somber occasion with reverence and respect.

  • Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron): Typically falling in April or May, is dedicated to the Israeli soldiers who have fallen in defense of the nation and to civilian victims of terrorism in Israel. Across the country, ceremonies and memorial services are held to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. By law, all places of entertainment are closed on the eve of Yom HaZikaron and broadcasting and educational bodies note the solemnity of the day. Regular television programs cease for the day, and the names and ranks of the fallen soldiers are displayed in a 24-hour television broadcast.

  • Independence Day (Yom HaAtzmaut): Celebrated in April or May, falls a day after Memorial Day and marks the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. It is characterized by lively festivities, fireworks displays, and a strong sense of national pride. Many Israelis travel within the country to participate in celebrations and events.

  • Jerusalem Day: Usually in May or June, marks the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War in 1967. Celebrated with parades, ceremonies, and events in late May or early June.

happy holidays israel

Other Significant Dates

  • First Day of Summer Vacation: The beginning of summer break for school and university students in Israel typically starts in late June or early July. It marks a significant surge in travel activity as many families go on holiday trips, both domestically and abroad. This uptick in travel may translate to highway congestion in certain well-toured areas, as well as increased demands for domestic and international flights. Accommodation options become limited, prompting travelers to book well in advance. Moreover, the increased travel demand during this period often leads to higher costs across the travel industry, requiring careful budgeting. It is recommended for travelers to plan ahead and secure accommodation in advance, in order to navigate the challenges of summer travel effectively.

  • First Day of School: The start of the school year in September is an important date for families and educators. Travel is usually affected as students return to their studies after the summer break. This also leads to increased traffic during morning rush hours, especially around educational institutions, as parents drop off their kids at schools. Understanding this helps travelers anticipate delays and plan their routes wisely.

  • New Year’s Eve: The night of New Year’s Eve in Israel, widely known as Sylvester, is typically celebrated by a minority of the population, mainly in urban areas and among certain communities. While it’s not a national holiday, some hotels, restaurants, and clubs may host special events or parties for those who wish to celebrate. Although the impact on travel is relatively minimal compared to other countries where New Year’s Eve is a major holiday, travelers should expect increased activity in certain areas, particularly in cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Additionally, public transportation schedules may be adjusted to accommodate late-night revelers, so it’s advisable to plan travel arrangements accordingly, especially if relying on buses or trains during this time.

fireworks in israel

Conclusion

Familiarizing yourself with Israel’s calendar of events and its possible travel implications is essential when planning a trip to Israel. By understanding the timing and significance of religious holidays, cultural events, and national celebrations, you can effectively plan your itinerary to optimize your travel experience. Whether it’s avoiding peak travel times, securing accommodations in advance, or immersing yourself in unique local festivities, being aware of these factors ensures a smoother and more fulfilling travel experience in Israel. So, take the time to explore the calendar, plan wisely, and go on a journey to Israel filled with unforgettable memories.

 

moshe barak

About The Author

Moshe Barak is a highly knowledgeable and reputable private taxi service operator in Israel, renowned for his professional approach, friendly attitude, and attention to details.
With over 20 years of experience and a long list of satisfied customers he is the trusted choice by many international travelers seeking reliable transportation with a personal touch during their trip to Israel.

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