What is Shabbat?
Shabbat, the seventh day in the jewish week (Saturday), is the day of rest and abstention from work as commanded by God in the Bible.
Shabbat involves two interrelated commandments: to remember and to observe.
The Torah describes the whole creation of the world by God during six days. The seventh day was god’s rest and delight of his creation.
In the “Kabbalat-Shabbat” (the traditional family gathering on Friday night to welcome the Shabbat), there are few blessings of god’s creation – wines, food, children, earth ect.
Since Shabbat is a holy day, there are few prohibitions to keep its holiness and to honor that day, such as prohibit of driving, turning on electrical device, lightning fire, cooking or any other kind of creation.
Shabbat starts at Friday sunset with a ritual candle-lighting and ends at nightfall, when three stars are visible, approximately 40 minutes after sunset.
Updated candle-lighting time-table you can find here.
How will the Shabbat affect my trip in Israel?
Although the Shabbat is a religious day, it has a big impact on Israeli week and weekend.
But don’t worry – Israel has a very strong tradition of freedom of religion, so you are free to keep any part of it or not keep it at all. Not only as a tourist in Israel but as a free person.
There are few difficulties you might experience during your stay in Israel during the Shabbat. Here is a short review of those and possible solutions for each.
- There is no public transport on Shabbat
Busses and trains does not operate, but in the major parts of Israel there are Taxies running and usually it’s very easy to catch one on the street even without ordering any.
Note that there is a special Shabbat tariff – around 1.5-2 times the regular day prices.
Another comfortable solution is Car Rental – you can easily find an agency in every big city and in most popular destinations among tourists in Israel. Note that some of them might not work on Saturday, but most does. It is strongly recommended to make a call to ensure that.
The majority of gas stations are working normally, but in some very traditional areas thy might be off. Rare case, but good to be aware of it.
Note that in religious neighborhoods (including large sections of Jerusalem), the religious character of Shabbat as a holy day is observed to the fullest – streets are closed to traffic and opens only after Shabbat is over.
- Most Businesses are closed on Shabbat
Shops, malls, restaurants, governmental offices and others closes Friday afternoon and most stay closed on Shabbat.
The area of Tel-Aviv and some popular touristic destinations are exceptional:
You can easily find an open restaurant in Tel Aviv or even an open pharm store,
in most gas stations all over Israel you can find a 24/7 Kiosk with groceries and other necessities, and most of the non-religious touristic attractions are open.
Friday night is “The” night to go out – all pubs, bars, night clubs and many restaurants are open until very late hours and they all offer a decent drink, tasty food and great vibes.
- Staying in a hotel on Shabbat
If you chose to stay in a hotel you might encounter with Shabbat-Elevator. Since its forbidden to turn on electrical switches, those elevators are travel automatically and stop every floor for a while. If your room is located on a high floor it might take a while to get there. Luckily most modern hotels do have normal elevator too, so the Shabbat elevator will be marked.
If you have the opportunity to stay in Israel during the weekend, we strongly recommend joining a Kabbalat-Shabat in your hotel or lodging – it is a warm social and spiritual experience.
You can also take a Friday evening walk in your area to experience the welcoming of the holy Shabbat with festive outfits, singing and praying in the synagogues.
If you make your stay in Jerusalem, the area of the Western Wall is a special holy festival and a must-have experience.