The doughnut madness: Chanukah in Israel

By Rotem Bar
Community Shlicha

You know how in America you can tell that the holidays are coming even though they are actually not for a few weeks? Whether it’s pumpkin spice everywhere and Halloween decorations that start way before the fall is actually here, or Christmas decorations that are being taken out as soon as Halloween is over?  

In Israel, the first sign that Chanukah is coming is the “sufganiot,” the Hebrew word for doughnut. Not the dreidels, latkes, or chanukiot, not the chocolate gold coins or Maccabis stories—sufganiot! Like the pumpkins of fall or the eggs of Easter, they are the precursors of Chanukah in Israel. You see, unlike here, doughnuts are not a thing that is sold all year long in Israel. We don’t have doughnut chains such as Dunkin’ Donuts that are spread throughout the country. You have occasional cafés that would sell a doughnut, but they are not as easy to spot. Unless Chanukah is coming! 

Each year, bakeries and chefs try to reinvent the sufgania as if there aren’t enough options as it is. From pistachio and coconut to vodka and cotton candy (I personally like the classic one with jelly and sugar powder), they try to upgrade the sufgania. What new flavors can they make, how they can decorate it differently, or how they can reduce its calories? The sufganiot temptation is everywhere. You have TV specials presenting them, different competitions revolving around them, different pop-ups selling sufganiot. They're in the newspapers, and in all of the supermarkets, workplaces, IDF, and events. You really can’t avoid the sight of them, not to mention the smell of them! 

So by the time Chanukah comes, you’ve already had seven different sufganiot, because someone told you, “this you must taste” or “you don’t get fat on Chanukah!” But when Chanukah finally arrives in Israel, it really is beautiful. The holiday of light! All the chanukiot on the windows, the finally cold weather, special festivals, and lots of family time all make this time of year so magical.

Happy Chanukah!