Hanukkah in Jerusalem

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I love Hanukkah! Currently it is my favorite holiday of all. It is so amazingly beautiful, so cozy and at the same time so deep.

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We celebrate the miracle of Light. For eight whole days, and not the least for eight beautiful nights we focus on Light!

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I can now look back on eight days full of sweet moments. So many amazing sights of shimmering oil lamps and flickering flames.

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Songs of darkness being removed as light comes in and takes over, and songs of how each one of us are all little lights!

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I have loved having my children home from school for the days of Hanukkah. This makes for so much more relaxing evenings, and not the least more relaxed mornings! It was a wonderful and much needed break for all.

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And I have LOVED walking the streets of Jerusalem during these cool Hanukkah evenings. Seeing the hanukkiot (Hanukkah-menorah) getting fuller and fuller every night, ever more beautiful and bright.

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And there are so many of them! Last night my dear husband and I went for a long run through Jerusalem, and we decided to count how many hanukkiot we saw on our way. The final count was 773 hanukkiot!!!

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The focus on the theme of dedication has been special for me this year. The name of the holiday, “Hanukkah”, means “Dedication”. The Temple was re-dedicated to God, to be a holy and suitable dwelling place for Him.

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The challenge that I am taking with me as we go towards the end of this year’s Hanukkah, is to dedicate myself even more to be a good dwelling place for God. I want to make more room for Him, to fill myself even more with Him, spend time in His Word and get closer and closer to Him.

 

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Joyful temporary dwelling

Here I am, past midnight, looking up on the palm-branches, decorations and lights that make up the roof of our Sukkah. We have been living out here for the past week. Really, – we have slept out here, eaten our meals out here and hosted several parties of guests out here.

sukkah

Such good times. A whole week of it! Before actually entering this time, you live in the illusion of it being a long time, but once it actually starts, it sort of flies by! Now it is the last night already. And I find myself sitting here trying to stop the time, or at least really hold on to the moment.

sleeping in the sukkah

The children have a friend over for a sleepover party in the Sukkah, and are still talking in the sleeping-bags next to me here. They LOVE Sukkot. All of us together all the time! What could possibly be better?? It’s like camping, just that you have all your comforts right there.

sukkah

One of the main commandments concerning Sukkot, is to be joyful! And to tell you the truth, it comes naturally. We have prepared for it. We have just come through the period of Rosh Hashanah, the ten solemn days, and Yom Kippur. Hearing the Shofar-blows marking the end of Yom Kippur is always such a relief. And after having something to eat, the first thing we do that very evening, is to start building our Sukkot. And the joy just becomes part of it. The relief, the thankfulness, the happiness, the playfulness of the whole idea of a Sukkah, hearing the neighbors building their sukkot next to us, the light atmosphere surrounding it all.

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Looking back at this past week, there are many wonderful moments coming to mind. Sitting around the holiday tables together with dear friends and family (in our sukkah or in theirs), eating tasty food, seeing the candles flickering, enjoying good conversation. Being at the synagogue and seeing all the lulavim (palm-branches) being shaken while hearing and joining in the hallel (worship). Very special experiences indeed.

Samaria

We have also made some short trips during chol hamoed. Today we went out to Shomron, which really can be called the heartland of Israel. Such views! Such a place! It is the like stones start talking and telling the stories of all they have seen over thousands of years!

Jerusalem

And just being downtown Jerusalem is a great experience at such a time as this. There are so many people out and about! So much fun stuff going on, so much to see! Look at this old map with Jerusalem at its center:

map of Jerusalem

And here we are at the Sukkah outside of City Hall:

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Tomorrow afternoon we are moving inside again, and tomorrow night we will sleep in our beds again. My princess just begged me for another night outside, – just one more, since we are enjoying it so much! But I am of the opinion that there is a time for everything, and tomorrow will probably be the time to go in the direction of normal again, and at least start sleeping in our beds. We still have one more holiday, – Simchat Torah, but that means Sukkot will already be over.

sukkah

It is kind of strange how both Sukkot and Pesach remove something very basic from our lives, – Pesach takes our bread, and Sukkot takes our homes. So then, once the holiday is over, and you get back what was removed, – you have gained a new appreciation for it! All of a sudden we don’t take our regular homes and beds for granted any more! We start noticing them and being thankful for them. Pretty genious, don’t you think?

Rosh hashana preparations, and napkin ring challot

Here we are at this time of the year again, – Rosh Hashana is right around the corner! I am sitting here in my holiday-decorated home, feet up, candles lit, wine in my glas, – yes, life is good!

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For the last few days, we have done a bit of preparations every day. The majority of the shopping we did already last week, – sooo happy with that decision as the supermarkets get pretty crazy in the days leading up to a major holiday like Rosh Hashana. (It is like we think we will never be able to shop for food again!) Yesterday I drove by a couple of supermarkets on my way to a wedding, and just driving by the parking-lots was stressful!!

Anyway, this year’s rosh-hashana-shopping was a breeze for me! I just wrote a detailed list, sent it with my husband who went to a supermarket late at night after work, and brought everything home on his motorbike! (He is amazing, I know!)

bringing home shopping on bike

And then on Sunday I started the cooking. I made a huge pot of chicken soup that day, and a lot of challot, because all of that does fine with a few days in the freezer. I tried something new with the challah this year. Always for Rosh Hashana I make round challot, as it symbolizes the circle of a year, we end one and start a new one. (By the way, – here is the recipe!)

round challot

So, in addition to two large challot on our holiday-table this year, we will each have a mini round challah as a napkin-ring! It was so easy too!

braiding challah

I just made these looong thin braided challahs (with nice help from the princess), and then connected them in rings to foil-covered empty papertowel-rolls.

challah napkin rings

I brushed them with an eggyolk, and baked them for about 12 minutes, let them cool slightly before disconnecting them from the rolls, and they came off really easily. Fun stuff!

challah napkin rings

And while I am showing you my productions, – here are some of my Rosh hashanah gifts:

raspberry jam

Raspberry-jam made from the raspberries we picked in Norway this summer, and then froze and brought back home with us to Jerusalem. Yummy, and fun to share! 🙂 And I must say, – just the smell of the jam as it is being made…. I can just close my eyes, and I am back in Norway for a moment…

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As I have been busy preparing for this after work for the last few days, it is helpful that the kids have started to help with lunch-preparations. This was the princess´ turn at it:

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No worries, she was only in charge of the pot in the front, – cooking pasta. I was making chicken soup and jam in the back pots.

While it is nice to have big kids who can help out and stuff, I am glad my kids are still young enough to enjoy crafts in preparations for the holidays. We have had our craft-station set up at the diningroom-table, creating a really fun atmosphere.

kids craftHere we are, at the day before the holiday, and I woke up this morning with a feeling of that today will be an efficient day. So the first thing I did was write a long list of everything I was going to get done after work. And let me tell you, some things on that list were so much more tempting than other things. I like baking, cooking and decorating soooo much more than cleaning and ironing… So the kids and I made a plan in the afternoon, that we were going to finish cleaning the house before opening our Rosh-Hashana-decoration-box. They both worked well on their rooms and put away laundry, while I vacuumed the house, cleaned the bathrooms and changed the beds, – and then came the prize of decorating! Fun fun fun!!!

Of course we put on the right music to put us in the mood, and then it is always fun to find the crafts that they have made the previous years, and all the other decorations that we keep from year to year. It is all simple stuff, but it is still the things that we use year after year, so it has a certain value to us.

Tomorrow I will cook the meats and some side-dishes. Desserts were made today. And then there is the special prize for tomorrow, – the setting and decorating of the table! My sweet mother in law kindly offered to come set the table for me to help me out. But I explained to her, – that is why I invite people, so that I get to decorate a nice table!!! 😉

We are going to have long tables for both nights of the holiday, and then plan on a more relaxing shabbat afterwards. I am really looking forward to all of it! Planning to enjoy it all!

Our family photo from the kotel this year

Our family photo from the kotel this year

I am hoping to stop by the blog again tomorrow, and maybe show you how the napkin-rings look at the actual table and stuff, but in case time does not allow, – I wish you all a shanah tovah u’metukah – a good and sweet new year!

My Tzimmes Recipe

I mentioned that I wanted to give you my Tzimmes-recipe, so here it is! I have already made this dish twice during this Pesach, and am still enjoying the leftovers.

Now, before we get to the recipe, -we find ourselves before yet another erev chag. And you may be asking yourself how come I all of a sudden have time to sit and write a blog-post in the middle of the afternoon before a holiday evening. (Because of course we are hosting again, – there will be ten of us around the table tonight.) The answer is, – my husband has volunteered to prepare the meal for tonight! Yes, he even chose the menu and wrote the shopping list! Be encouraged, – we are seeing miracles in our days!!

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I still made the dessert and the soup, and will do the salad and of course the table-decorations, – we don’t want to go totally overboard. But again, – he is making the main dishes! And we are all excited about it!

Back to the Tzimmes. This is a traditional holiday side-dish which I make just about every Pesach and Rosh Hashanah. It definitely falls in the category of comfort-food with it’s mushy-ness and sweetness in spite of not being a dessert. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do:

Tzimmes

TZIMMES

Lots of sweet potatoes

Some carrots

As many sliced apricots and prunes as you would like

Cinnamon to taste

Some orange juice

Possibly some honey

Peel and slice both sweet potatoes and carrots. Then you cook those together. There should be maybe 80 % sweet potatoes, and 20 percent carrots. After they are done, you pour out the water and put the carrots and sweet potatoes in a baking dish. Add apricots, prunes and cinnamon to taste. Add the orange juice, and honey if you want. Mix it all together. Taste a spoon of it, and add more of whatever you think will improve the flavor! 

This is a very convenient dish to just keep hot on the hotplate, or you can heat it in your oven if you’d like. I love eating this next to meat and gravy and mashed potatoes. That tastes like a chag (holiday) to me!

Chag sameach, everyone!

Enjoying Pesach

The weeks leading up to Pesach are always very much influenced by the fact that they are the weeks leading up to Pesach. In addition to work and all the normal parts of life, you take on this huge project of sorting through all your belongings and cleaning every little corner in your home. This culminates in the cleaning of the kitchen which comes at the end of it all, – there you scrub your pots until they look brand new, and the same goes for the oven (I am SO thankful that my husband takes care of those parts!).

My husband using a blowtorch to clean an oven-rack.

My husband using a blowtorch to clean an oven-rack.

Then I boil everything, – utensils and pots and anything metal. Glas gets to stay, but anything ceramic gets removed and replaced by our Pesach-dishes. All of this we do in order to remove the leaven from our homes. And as I work on it, I try to think of what this symbolizes, – the removal of sin and pride and everything bad from our lives, our hearts.

And then Pesach arrives, and you decide that it is all good enough. The last day before Pesach was devoted to cooking, – in my sparkling clean kitchen and my almost new pots! (And somehow after that it was not all so sparkling clean anymore, but at least there was no leaven…)

Our Pesach table

On erev Pesach we sat around our decorated long dining room table and enjoyed one of the most special evenings of the year together with dear family and friends. I sat there and just soaked it all in. The sights of the candlelight flickering on my children, the sounds of the singing of these familiar and traditional songs, the depth of the content of what we were reading together. I am glad that a Seder Meal takes a long time. Just think of all the preparations that have gone into this! You wouldn’t want it to just fly by!

Our family ready to enter the holiday of Pesach. :-)

Our family ready to enter the holiday of Pesach. 🙂

By the time the festive meal was served, we were all quite hungry, – so I got tons of complements on the cooking! This is the way to do it folks, – starve your people before feeding them, and they will love your food! 😉 We had the traditional chicken soup with matzaballs, then we had turkey breast and beef, both with their own gravies, mashed potatoes and tzimmes (*which I think was the most popular dish, so I might write a separate post with its recipe), and of course salad and all the parts of the seder-plate, of which of course the sweet charoset was the one that most was eaten from. A good friend brought yummy desserts, one forrest-berry mousse cake and one chocolate mousse cake, – yum and double yum!

Pesach

In the weeks leading up to Pesach I had late nights sorting and cleaning, and I kept waking up really early thinking of what project on my list I was going to try to get to before I was starting work that day. And really, I am the type of person that enjoys that type of thing too. I really really enjoy the results, tidy cabinets, the thought of that I know what I have and where I have it. And now after Pesach arrived, – I have slept soooo well! Long nights, relaxing mornings. No thoughts of what I have to accomplish, – just enjoying time with family and friends. It is lovely!!! There certainly is a time for everything.

Pesach at the pool

We have had good friends from out of town staying with us, and have really enjoyed hanging out with them. Be it over long breakfasts or by the pool in the afternoon or watching a movie in the evening. We also got together with a lot of our friends here in the area for a fun barbecue picnic in a large park here in Jerusalem. Lots of fun! The children get to run around playing with various balls and kites, or just roll around in the grass, while the adults get to sit on picnic blankets and enjoy good food and fellowship. (The kids of course eat too, – but quickly…)

Pesach picnic

Today we have had a wonderful time touring the land together with my in-laws. We visited Shilo and Psagot in the beautiful hills of Samaria. The views of these terraced hills are just breathtaking. And the thought of the depth of history of what has been going on out there is amazing.

Where the tabernacle stood

Where the tabernacle stood

The Tabernacle was in Shilo for 369 years after Joshua brought the Israelites into Israel. So this was the place were the people came to for worship, like they came to Jerusalem after the Temple was built.

a model of the altar that was in the tabernacle

A model of the altar that was in the tabernacle

It was in Shilo, for example, that Hannah came and prayed for a son, and later brought Shmuel there to serve God in the Tabernacle.Pesach trip

They have very well done movies in both Shilo and Psagot, and they have as a common theme that they want to connect you with the Land.

photo 1-83 Once you connect with the Land, it will connect with you. This is an amazing process, and I witnessed it happening in my children today.

The view towards Jerusalem from Psagot

The view towards Jerusalem from Psagot

It was a real privilege to be out there as a three generation family. We are so blessed!photo 3-67

I am glad Pesach is not over yet! I am planning on making the most of every moment of this holiday of freedom and redemption!

Pesach trip

The Festival of Lights

Another name for Hanukkah (which means Dedication) is The Festival of Lights. And, really, it is a festival of lights like none other! Here are some photos to illustrate this:

hanukkah lightsThis is our home last night.

hanukkah lightsAnd no, nothing caught on fire.

hanukkah lightsIt was a cold Jerusalem night, and still, we had no need for any heating. Other than the candles, that is…

hanukkah lightsWe lit the symbolic number of 18 hanukkiot on the last night of Hanukkah. 18 means chai, – live, – so here is to The Light of Israel LIVES!!!

hanukkah lightsOn this last night of the holiday, my in-laws and a friend were here for the lighting of the candles.

lighting hanukkah candlesHaving 18 hanukkiot to light, there were still several hanukkiot for each one to light.

lighting the hanukkiahOh, those beautiful sights! Those wonderful moments!!

champagne on the last night of hanukkahNot a perfectly lit photo. But look at those happy faces! I love them!!

hanukkah lightsThis one I always light thinking of my sister in law, who bought this hanukkiah. We live on different continents, and it is sad not to be together for the holidays, but lighting her hanukkiah makes us think of her every night.

hanukkah lightsAnd here is my sweetness who just turned eight, busy coloring in the light of the full hanukkiah with its eight candles.

hanukkiah with peopleThis hanukkiah we bought for our son as his first hanukkiah when he was only two years old.

hanukkah lightsHere is the Jerusalem-hanukkiah our daughter made last year. I don’t think we had lit it on any of the other nights, so it definitely had to be lit on this last night of Hanukkah.

JerusalemCelebrating Hanukkah in Jerusalem is a real privilege, and on the seventh night we went on our annual tour of the Old City and its beautiful Hanukkiah-lit streets together with some friends.

Hanukkah in the Old City of JerusalemIsn’t it just heavenly?!

Hanukkah in JerusalemAfter having been at the Western Wall for the lighting of the big Hanukkiah there, we just walk the streets and pathways of the Jewish quarter of the Old City and look for beautiful sights. And it is just amazing! You look down and you look up, and you find these bright little flames of oil hanukkiot all over.

Hanukkah in JerusalemThere is something so powerfully positive about all these little flames!

Hanukkah in JerusalemLight has certainly overcome darkness!!

J in the light of the hanukkiotI have always loved looking at my children’s faces in the light of the hanukkiot.

B in the light of the hanukkiotI am so thankful for these two hanukkah-candles of mine!!

Hanukkah at the KotelAnd I am so very thankful for the fact that we get to live our lives right here in Jerusalem!

Nes Gadol Haya PoWe get to celebrate Hanukkah right were it happened!! We keep on saying like it says on the poster on the street in the photo above: Nes Gadol Haya PO! A Big Miracle Happened HERE!!

HanukkahOh, yes, it has been another wonderful Hanukkah. It did fly by way too fast, but at least our hearts are full of sweet memories as we leave this special time of the year.

white hanukkiah

Hanukkah nights flying by!

I am sure glad that we were enjoying Hanukkah-stuff before the holiday started for real.

A pre-hanukkah brunch with a dear friend

A pre-hanukkah brunch with a dear friend.

Because the real thing is flying by way too fast!

pre hanukkah brunch

Tonight we already lit six candles in addition to the shamash! 

the sixth night of Hanukkah

We are watching as every night we are adding one more candle, one more flame than the night before.

A new Hanukkiah that joined our collection this year. Isn´t the reflection just beautiful??

A new Hanukkiah that joined our collection this year. Isn´t the reflection just beautiful??

The hanukkiot are  becoming a more beautiful sight every night, but the bright lights are also reminders that we are nearing the end…

Hanukkah at the Mamilla mall

On the first night of the holiday, we went downtown to watch the public lighting of the Hanukkiah at the beautiful Mamilla mall.

Big Hanukkiah outside of Jaffa gate, and can you see the smaller one closer to the wall?

Big Hanukkiah outside of Jaffa gate, and can you see the smaller one closer to the wall?

It is always special as the holiday is entering. You are enjoying the moments, and at the same time enjoying the fact that there are so many more wonderful moments to come. This is just the beginning!

sufganiot

We had some friends over after our outing to Mamilla, and enjoyed yummy Roladin sufganiot again! Mmmmm…!

Oh, the joy and excitement of children opening hanukkah-gifts!

Oh, the joy and excitement of children opening hanukkah-gifts!

And, yes, the children get to open gifts every night. They are not particularly big gifts. But just something wrapped is exciting.

And, let me show you what my super sweet sister did for me:

Hanukkah gifts

She got eight hanukkah-gifts for me as well! So I get the excitement of opening one gift every night as well! I am really enjoying it!

hanukkah gifts

Then on the second night we hosted a big hanukkah-party for our community here in Jerusalem. It also happened to be Thanksgiving, and I prepared multiple pumpkin pies, and a special version of pumpkin-filled sufganiot!

Thanksgivukkah

Young and old had a fun time together. We cleaned up the big mess and went to bed. The next morning we woke up and went straight into preparations for our real Thanksgiving dinner which we were going to have that evening.

butternut squash

We had a group of friends coming to celebrate Shabbat, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving with us. So there were new pies, new sufganiot, and of course a whole turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows etc. etc.

cooking for thanksgiving and hanukkah

We enjoyed our pumpkin pie scented hanukkah-candles both on the second and the third night of Hanukkah.

pumpkin pie scented Hanukkah candles

Shabbat was wonderful as always. After havdalah we went to a housewarming – hanukkah party at some friends´ house, and once I was home again it was time to prepare for the birthday party I was throwing for my daughter the next day. (The party itself deserves a post of it´s own.)

preparing for a birthday party on Hanukkah

But you get the picture? It was from one thing to the other. Relatively non stop. We all had really good times, so I am not complaining. But yeah, as the fifth night of Hanukkah came around, it was lovely to be able to just sit back and watch the hanukkiot. There is a time for everything.

fifth night of hanukkah

Today we have been mainly just been chilling out at home. And I got to go for a good, long training run.

Hanukkah days. Playing with the gift received the night before.

Hanukkah days. Playing with the gift received the night before.

Tonight we had some sweet friends over, and the kids got to have another little game-night. Always a hit! 🙂

Hanukkah game night

For the remaining two nights we also have nice plans with friends and family. We don’t want to miss opportunities for good and special times. Definitely not. Hanukkah is only once a year. Eight nights are not even one too many!hanukkah