Holiday Traditions of Sending Gifts to Israel
Between September 5 and October 5 (Tishrei 1-2)
Ten days between New Year's Day and Day of Atonement
between September 14 and October 14 (Tishrei 10)
between September 19 and October 19 (Tishrei 15)
between September 26 and October 26 (Tishrei 22)
between November 27 and December 27 (Kislev 25-Tevet 2/3)
Late January to early February (Shvat 15)
between February 24 & March 26 (Adar 14 (Adar 15 in some places)
between March 26 & April 25 (Nisan 15)
Second day of Pesach until the day before Shavuot
between April 7 & May 7 (Nisan 27)
between April 14 & May 7 (Iyar 4)
between April 15 & May 15 (Iyar 5)
between Mid-May to end of May (Iyar 28)
between May 15 & June 14 (Sivan 6)
Sending personal gifts to Israel or any country can be fraught with things to think about. What should I send on any given holiday? Is there anything that it might be insulting to send? When should I send my gift to Israel? The remarkable number of traditions, gift-focused celebrations, and special holidays is enough to prove that gifts are welcome, but should be taken seriously. In each country there are crucial variations in the offering of presents, and it's imperative to be cognizant of the impact of gifts and the significance of holidays across cultures. Because when you're preparing to deliver a gift to Israel, you want to make sure you're sending something they're going to love and the respects your recipient's values. Sending the perfect gifts to Israel can be a challenge if one isn't familiar with the holidays and how they're celebrated, so make sure to become familiar with the holidays below, and remember giftbasketsoverseas.com, the experts in international gift-giving, are ready to help.
Stepped in holy places and traditions, embroiled in the struggle for independence and acceptance, and overflowing with unmatched energy and zest for life, Israel is a fascinating combination of East and West, metropolis and wilderness, religion and secular life. Given its long fight to exist and the rich history of Israel's holy traditions, it's no wonder that the people of Israel hold fast to their many sacred holidays and mourn, remember, re-enact, and celebrate on them with an unparalleled depth of faith and emotion. The Israeli people are welcoming sort, and you can experience their generosity, joy, and hospitality any time of the year, but especially during their celebrations.
When the time comes to choose a gift to send to Israel, either to repay hospitality or to celebrate a holy day, it will be important to remember some simple gift-giving etiquette. Israelis, being the generous people they are, sometimes go overboard with their gifting, so in many business setting it may actually be forbidden to exchange gifts; this kind of policy ensures that embarrassment doesn't ensue as a result of kind gestures. Always make sure to find out specifically if your business associate's company allows gifts or not. It is generally recommended that you get your know your friend or associate in Israel before offering a gift so that you can choose a gift that matches your recipient's interests; however, if you're having trouble choosing a gift, Chocolate gifts, Sweets, Gourmet Gifts, and Flowers are almost always appropriate fallbacks. When you are invited to someone's home in Israel, it is customary to offer the hosts Flowers or a Wine Gift; Tea-Coffee Gifts, Sweets, and Gourmet Gifts would also be appropriate. If children live in the home, it would also be a good idea to bring some small gift for them as well; Chocolate Gifts, Sweets, or Balloons should be perfect.
You are encouraged to send gifts to Israel to celebrate any holy day, as long as the gift is appropriate for the holiday. For instance, it is forbidden to eat or drink on Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av so Flowers would be an appropriate choice. Purim, Sukkot, Hannukah, Pesach, and Shavuot, however, are particularly well-suited for sending Fruit Baskets, Gourmet Gifts, Chocolate Gifts, Sweets, and Wine Gifts although it is important to find out if food and drink items need to be Kosher prior to sending. Flowers are a favorite gift in Israel; from Rosh Hashanah to Shavuot and even for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, or any special occasion, there is no time when it's inappropriate to send Flowers, and there are no restrictions on the kinds of flowers you should choose.
*Hashem literally means 'The Name' and Jewish people use this word instead of the word that is the name of The Creator of the Universe from the Torah and the Bible whom Moses and Abraham worshiped. It is the law not to speak or write His name, because it is ineffable.
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Most Celebrated National Holidays
Between September 5 and October 5 (Tishrei 1-2) - New Year's Day
New Year's Day (Rosh Hashanah) - Between September 5 and October 5 (Tishrei 1-2)
Rosh Hashanah, also called the Jewish New Year, commemorates the culmination of Hashem's* creation of the Universe in the creation of mankind. This date begins the year for animals, people, and legal contracts (although there are other dates that mark other types of beginnings throughout the year). It is also said that this day is Hashem's Day of Judgment - many will be included in the Book of Life, some will be stricken from it, and the fate of a few will be uncertain until the day of Yom Kippur. During the two-day holy festival of Rosh Hashanah businesses and schools close, and people in Israel attend religious ceremonies, offer up special prayers for forgiveness (called selichot) and prosperity in the new year, and wipe the slate clean for themselves and other people. It is customary in Israel to walk into a body of water such a pond or lake and empty one's pockets - this symbolizes the casting away of sin. Jewish people also blow a special trumpet made of a ram's horn to symbolize Hashem's rule over the universe. There are traditional foods to be served on Rosh Hashanah including an apple dipped in honey that symbolizes sweetness in the new year, the head of a fish that symbolizes staying ahead in the upcoming year, and a pomegranate which symbolizes prosperity. The ten days between the holiday and the next - Yom Kippur - are spent in meditation and repentance.
Ten days between New Year's Day and Day of Atonement - Days of Awe
Days of Awe (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) - Ten days between New Year's Day and Day of Atonement.
Also known as the Days of Repentance, the Days of Awe are celebrated during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. People in Israel consider this a sacred time during which they have the opportunity to atone for the previous year's sins. People celebrate by offering selichot (penitent prayers that express remorse and beg Hashem's forgiveness), and seek forgiveness from people they have wronged throughout the year. It is said that on Rosh Hashanah Hashem writes out the scrolls that determine who will have a good year and who will have a bad one. One's actions during the Days of Awe can, however, change that decree, so this is a time of kindness, charity, and piety.
between September 14 and October 14 (Tishrei 10) - Day of Atonement
Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) - between September 14 and October 14 (Tishrei 10).
Yom Kippur is the culmination of the ten day of repentance, and marks the final opportunity for people to seek forgiveness for last year's sins. The Jewish people consider Yom Kippur the holiest of all the days of the year; indeed it is called 'the Sabbath of Sabbaths.' On this day, Jewish people follow the rules of the Sabbath, but they also fast and refrain from handling money, wearing leather shoes, bathing, using perfumes or lotions, and engaging in marital relations. This day is not known to be connected to any historical even from the Torah, although some people believe that it marks the day Moses descended from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments for the second time and Hashem forgave the ancient Hebrews for the golden calf incident. Besides fasting from both food and drink, Jewish people observe this solemn holiday by sharing a special meal the night before, participating in a ceremony for atonement, spending the day at synagogue offering prayers for forgiveness (selichot), and once again blowing the ram's horn (shofar) to signify the end of the ceremonies.
between September 19 and October 19 (Tishrei 15) - Feast of Tabernacles (Booths)
Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) (Sukkot) - between September 19 and October 19 (Tishrei 15).
The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths is a seven-day, Torah-based holiday that combines celebration of the harvest with the memory of the temporary dwellings (sukkot) in which the Israelites lived during their escape from Egypt. Traditionally, this holiday was for making the pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices of grain. Nowadays, Jewish people celebrate with ceremonial blessings each day, and by offering prayers of thanks for the year's harvest as well as for next season's. Families enjoy building their own sukka - a four-sided temporary dwelling like a booth or tent with cloth walls and its ceiling open to the sky often adorned with harvest fruits and paper decorations. All meals are enjoyed in the sukka for the duration of the holiday.
between September 26 and October 26 (Tishrei 22) - Assembly of the Eighth Day
(Simchat Torah/Shemini Atzeret)
Assembly of the Eighth Day (Simchat Torah/Shemini Atzeret) - between September 26 and October 26 (Tishrei 22).
This day comes immediately after Sukkot, and is also Torah-based. It marks the completion of the cycle of Torah-readings so that the cycle can begin again. Among the religious it is festive day during which the people rejoice in the gift of the Torah. The men and boys gather to read the Torah and bless it, children carry Simchat Torah flags decorated with holiday symbols, and everyone enjoys watching or dancing the Hakafot - a circular dance, usually performed out in the open, during which the men carry the Torah scrolls.
between November 27 and December 27 (Kislev 25-Tevet 2/3) - Feast of Re-dedication
Feast of Re-dedication (Hanukkah) - between November 27 and December 27 (Kislev 25-Tevet 2/3).
Hanukkah, The Feast of Rededication, or The Festival of Lights, is an eight-day holiday celebrated by those of the Jewish faith to commemorate the 2nd Century BCE re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. At the time, some of the Seleucid kings were attempting to force laws on the Israelites that were against their religious beliefs; the worst of these was Antiochus IV's decree that a statue be built in the Holy Temple - such desecration was tantamount to spitting in Hashem's face. Some of the ancient Israelites revolted under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, and they freed Jerusalem, including the Temple, from foreign rule. After the victory, during the Temple's re-dedication, a miracle occurred; although there was only enough oil to burn the lamps in the temple for one day, they continued to burn for eight. Nowadays, the holiday begins at Sundown and is observed for eight consecutive nights during which one of eight colorful menorah candles is lit and Brachot blessings are spoken over them. The candles are placed in a prominent position, usually a windowsill, and their light cannot be used for purpose such a work. Also, the candles must burn for at least thirty minutes after sundown. Jewish families gather together during this time to share blessings and read from the Torah and other edifying spiritual tomes; they also exchange small gifts with one another and enjoy foods fried in oil (particularly olive oil) such as potato pancakes (latkes, in Yiddish), sufganiyot, fritters (bimuelos), and jelly-filled donuts (pontshkes), as symbols of the miracle in the Temple. Children play with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels; each side of the dreidel is decorated with a Hebrew letter from the letters of the phrase which means, 'A Great Miracle Happened There.'
Late January to early February (Shvat 15) - New Year for Trees
New Year for Trees (Tu B'shvat) - Late January to early February (Shvat 15).
This non-holy, agricultural holiday has its roots in the Mishna instead of in the Torah; whereas Rosh Hashanah marks the New Year for animals, people, and legal contracts, Tu B'shvat marks the beginning of the year for trees. Originally, this was the time during the rainy season that Jewish people gauged the age of trees in order to determine which ones were old enough to harvest and count for tithing. In the modern day, people in Israel use this holiday to celebrate their connection with the land; many people take the time to plant new young trees. In addition, it is customary to enjoy dried fruits on this day as well as to share a special ceremonial meal based on the Passover called the Tu B'Shvat Seder.
between February 24 & March 26 (Adar 14 (Adar 15 in some places) - Memorial Feast for the Triumph of Esther
Memorial Feast for the Triumph of Esther (Purim) - between February 24 & March 26 (Adar 14 (Adar 15 in some places).
Purim comes on the 14th of Adar (in the Hebrew Calendar). The day of Purim, which means 'lots,' commemorates the day after justice ruled over the enemies of the Jewish people when they endured the rule of the Persian King Ahasuerus. As stated in the Book of Esther, Haman, the vizier to the king, plotted against the Hebrew people and tricked Ahasuerus into allowing him to murder all of them. Haman decided to cast lots to determine the day his plan would be complete. But Esther, the King's wife, secretly Jewish herself, unraveled Haman's plans, exposed him for the murderer he was, and replaced him with Mordecai (a righteous, faithful man who also happened to be her cousin). In Israel Purim is an exuberant holiday, much like Carnival in Brazil or New Year's Eve in the USA; indeed, revelers who are of age are encouraged to drink until they cannot tell Haman's name from Mordechai's. Purim is celebrated with dancing, costumes and colorful clothes, and Kosher feasts. School children come to classes in costumes and exchange gifts (often sweets) for the entire week leading up to Purim, then have the day off. Also, people remember the story by reading the Book of Esther aloud in public. They also make sure to remember those who are in need since Jewish tradition states that Purim is a day that everyone ought send two gifts of food and sweets (at least) to people who are less fortunate than themselves.
between March 26 & April 25 (Nisan 15) - Passover
Passover (Pesach) - between March 26 & April 25 (Nisan 15).
Pesach, which is also known as the Holiday of Freedom, commemorates the time when the ancient Hebrews escaped the slavery of the hard-hearted Pharaoh and fled Egypt under the leadership of Moses. The Hebrews won their freedom and journeyed in the desert for forty years prior to their conquest of Israel. This holiday is also called the Day of Unleavened Bread; in their haste to escape Egypt, the ancient Hebrews had no time for the bread to rise, so they made it without leavening (matzah); now modern-day Jewish people avoid eating any leavened products (including pasta and foods made with flour) and, in a tradition akin to 'spring cleaning,' thoroughly cleanse their homes of any trace of the offensive substance. Ceremonies and prayers during this holiday focus on freedom and redemption. Jewish families, including extended family, celebrate with a heart-warming display of family togetherness by joining around one table and sharing the Seder meal - a ritualized meal during which sections of the Torah are read, certain prayers are spoken, and traditional foods like matzah, bitter herbs, four goblets of wine, and a large feast are served; it is important to invite those who have no family with whom to share the meal. Families also indulge a game in which they hide a piece of matzah for children to find; the one who finds it wins a prize.
Second day of Pesach until the day before Shavuot - The Counting of the Omer
The Counting of the Omer - Second day of Pesach until the day before Shavuot.
The Torah decrees that the Jewish people must count the seven week period from the second evening of Passover until the day before Shavuot. While the Temple in Jerusalem existed, on the first day of the holiday the people were to cut an omer (a unit of measure) of barley and bring it to the Temple; then on the last day of the holiday they were to cut an omer of grain to bring to the Temple. In the modern day, the time is celebrated by literally counting each night; on the 17th day of the Omer one would say, 'Today is seventeen days, which is two weeks and three days of the Omer.' Jewish people also refrain from having parties, dinners with dancing, or weddings during this time, since it is a time of partial mourning. During this time, the Jewish people are reminded that they were not completely free of the slavery of Pharaoh until they received the Torah.
between April 7 & May 7 (Nisan 27) - Holocaust Remembrance Day
(Yom HaZikaron LaShoah VeLaGevurah)
Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaZikaron LaShoah VeLaGevurah) - between April 7 & May 7 (Nisan 27).
This is a national remembrance day set aside to honor those who were murdered during the Holocaust. Businesses remain open, but entertainment venues close on this day. Schools often hold special ceremonies to honor those who have passed, and holocaust survivors and their families often hold candlelight vigils.
between April 14 & May 7 (Iyar 4) - Fallen Soldiers Remembrance Day
Fallen Soldiers Remembrance Day (Yom HaZikaron) - between April 14 & May 7 (Iyar 4)
People in Israel take the time on this day to honor the memory of brave soldiers and security people who died in the line of duty while protecting Israel from its enemies as well as the innumerable innocent people murdered in terrorist attacks. Originating in 1951 in connection with Independence Day, this holiday began as a way to commemorate the sacrifices of those who lost their lives helping Israel to achieve its independence, but has since been expanded. All venues for entertainment are closed on this holiday since it is considered a solemn day of mourning; flags are flown at half-mast, and people stand to observe moments of respectful silence when sirens sound once at 8:00 PM and again at 11:00 AM the next day. This is a solemn day to either remain at home or to honor the grave site of a fallen soldier or victim of terror.
between April 15 & May 15 (Iyar 5) - Independence Day
Independence Day (Yom Ha-Atzmaut) - between April 15 & May 15 (Iyar 5).
This holiday marks the only one on the Jewish calendar that lacks a tradition of hundreds of years. On this day in 1948, Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, officially announced Israel's independence from British Mandate. The holiday begins the evening before (at the end of the previous Day of Remembrance called Yom HaZikaron) with ceremonies that shift the tone from one of mourning to one of joy. In similar fashion to Independence Day in the USA, people in Israel fly their country's flag at home and on their cars, they gather together for picnics and barbecues, visit local IDF military camps, and enjoy outdoor entertainment including stunning fireworks displays.
between Mid-May to end of May (Iyar 28) - Jerusalem Day
(Yom Herut Yerushalayim)
Jerusalem Day (Yom Herut Yerushalayim) - between Mid-May to end of May (Iyar 28).
This day commemorates the reunification of the city of Jerusalem as a result of its liberation from the Kingdom of Jordan at the end of the Six Day War. Although it is a national holiday, businesses are open except for official ceremonies. There is a large ceremony help at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, the site of the most intense fighting of the war.
between May 15 & June 14 (Sivan 6) - Pentecost
Pentecost (Shavuot) - between May 15 & June 14 (Sivan 6)
Shavuot, which is also called The Holiday of Weeks, is the third of the traditional pilgrimage holidays, along with Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles) and Pesach (Passover). Traditionally, the Jewish people would begin the Counting of the Omer, which lasts 50 days from the first day of Pesach, by bringing the first of the barley harvest (on the first day) and the first of the grain harvest (on the last day) to the Temple for the offering of first fruits. In addition, this holiday commemorates the time when the Hebrew people were given the Torah at Mt. Sinai, and it is also connected with the Book of Ruth which takes place during the grain harvest. It is said that King David, who was descended from Ruth (a Moabite who converted to Judaism), was born and died on Shavuot. These correlations emphasize that the Jewish family is open to anyone, even an enemy, if they accept the Torah. Today, this holiday is celebrated with prayers and studies from the Torah, Mishna, and Zohar. At the Synagogue, people hear the story of Ruth from the Bible, and then indulge in great feasts that include a variety of dairy products.
Av 9 - Ninth of Av Fast
Ninth of Av Fast (Tisha B'Av) - Av 9.
This solemn holiday commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem not only once, but twice: the first time in year 586 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar and then in the year 70 CE by Titus. This date also correlates to the monarchy's expulsion of the Jewish people from Spain in 1482. Like Yom Kippur, this day is a complete fast day, and neither eating nor drinking is permitted. Orthodox Jews also adhere to other strict guidelines including refraining from sitting in chairs until noon, listening to music, cutting their hair, bathing, wearing leather, and engaging in marital relations. People also avoid throwing weddings on this date. In Israel, people attend Synagogue and read from the Book of Lamentations, some even travel to the Western Wall to read the scriptures aloud there.
Gift Suggestions for Ninth of Av Fast