In Israel, many of the religious traditions of the nation have become cultural traditions too!
Especially within Judaism, there is a huge emphasis on family, community, and joy! Overtime, those very values have become both essential and meaningful ones to the citizens of Israel as well, regardless of race, faith, or background!
The Sabbath, or Shabbat in Hebrew, is a huge part of Judaism, and comes as the 7th day of rest after a long week of work. The origin of this day of rest is from the Torah itself, all the way back to the story of creation. After 6 long days of creating the world, God rests on the seventh day. Today, we learn that we too must rest each week, and recharge for the week to come. It is a day of spirituality and prayer, a day to spend time with family and friends, and a day of much needed rest.
Shabbat has become widely celebrated by Jews throughout the world. But in Israel, it has taken on a new meaning. Not only is it a religious holiday, but it is a day so embedded into the very core of the country. In Hebrew, the 7th day of the week, what we know as Saturday in the English language, is actually called Shabbat- both by religious and non-religious alike, and even by the many non-Jews living in Israel! Shabbat is simply a day here, celebrated by all in their own unique ways.
In a traditional and religious sense, Shabbat officially begins at nightfall every Friday night when the sun sets, as the Jewish calendar counts each day beginning with the night before. To welcome in Shabbat each week, it is customary to light candles and recite a blessing to sanctify the day of rest, as well as have a festive meal with wine, bread, delicious foods, and loved ones!
Shabbat dinner is one of the most widely celebrated traditions across Israel, each family and community creating a special and different experience of their own.
What does Shabbat dinner look like throughout Israel?
For some, it means the traditional Friday night meal. There is the "kiddush", or the blessing over wine, along with the blessing over 2 challah's- the traditional Shabbat bread. It is usually held after the Friday night prayer service, and includes many of the religious customs.
Others choose Shabbat dinner to be a cultural experience. Even if they do not classically keep the day's specific laws, it connects them to their nation and the nation's history of tradition. For many Israelis, it is the one day each week that connects them to their heritage.
Classic Shabbat food typically includes chicken soup, challah bread, dips like hummus and tahini, potato kugel, fish (including herring!) and cholent (an Eastern European stew).
Some see Shabbat as a chance to wind down and spend time with family and friends. It may be a pizza dinner, sushi, or even BBQ- the food isn't the main event, rather the company!
The magic of Israel is that there is no one right way to be Jewish. Whether it is the tradition, the culture, the people, or the faith- there is a place for every type of Jew in Israel.