10 reasons we love Friday in Israel

From all-out brunches and roadside flowers to heavenly naps and delicious dinners, Friday is the much-anticipated beginning of the Israeli weekend.

Kabbalat Shabbat in the Tel Aviv Port. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90

NAAMA BARAK, Israel21c.org

While the rest of the world has Sunday to laze around, enjoy avocado on toast and do the weekend crossword, over here in Israel it is the start of the working week.

Which would absolutely suck, were it not for the fact that we have our very own best day of the week. Friday.

That’s right. While elsewhere on the globe people still sit at their desks and hope for tomorrow, we in Israel are already out brunching, resting and spending quality time with friends and family. Here are the top 10 reasons why we love Friday. Just don’t read this on your Friday.

1. It’s the start of the weekend

Let’s begin with the obvious. Friday is the best day on our calendar week in, week out because it officially marks the start of the weekend. So long, horribly long office hours. Goodbye, morning traffic. See you in a couple of days, when we’re well-rested and around 5 pounds heavier.

2. Everyone goes out for breakfast

Like all of the best things in Israel, Friday is very food-centric, and relatively early in the day, too. It seems as if there’s nothing people love doing more on a Friday morning than going out for breakfast or brunch, making your chances of catching a restaurant seat until 1pm incredibly slim. But if you do manage to bag a table, you’ll be able to feast on delicious Israeli cuisine – mountains of fresh salads, shakshuka, cakes, pastries and cup after cup of the best coffee in the world.

3. There are pop-up food markets
Continuing with our edible theme, Fridays are also noted for the food markets that pop up everywhere. And we mean everywhere – Tel Aviv Port, city centers, your local humble shopping mall and even traffic circles. We highly recommend stocking up on local delicacies such as stuffed vine leaves, fritters, schnitzels and a good cake or two, since there are pretty good odds you’ll be spending the weekend hosting guests.

4. It’s a great day to hike
While it’s tempting to while away the weekend hiking to the fridge and back, Friday is actually a great opportunity to get some real activity going. Not only are you still pumped that it’s the weekend, but the atmosphere is celebratory, and you can catch amazing sights in time to make it back for dinner. And the best part – you can wake up early in the morning in the full knowledge that tomorrow you can sleep in.

5. Traffic is lighter
While Fridays usually suffer from a lunchtime crush when everyone gets into their cars to pick up their kids from school and do some last-minute shopping before all the stores close for Shabbat, the mornings and evenings are an absolute pleasure. With most people off from work, the entry to Tel Aviv becomes bearable, as does the exit from Jerusalem. And in a country so ridden by traffic jams, we’re willing to celebrate this little weekend miracle.

6. The mood shifts

By the time afternoon strikes on Friday, there’s a palpable mood shift up and down the country. People everywhere seem to let out a collective deep breath as the worries of the week become a thing of the past, their house is all nice and clean ahead of Shabbat and they can look forward to over 24 hours of seriously deserved rest and relaxation. There’s a certain stillness that envelops the country, and it moves us every week anew.

7. Roadside flowers

One of the loveliest hallmarks of Fridays in Israel is the fact that there are flowers all across the country’s roadsides. We don’t mean to say that they magically grow there once a week, but rather that it’s super customary for vendors to put up little stalls with a sign saying “Flowers for Shabbat” on the sides of thoroughfares, junctions and city centers. The variety is usually gorgeous, but it’s best to pick up your flowers early in the day before the heat gets to them. Don’t forget that you’ll need to pay in cash, and don’t hesitate to haggle.

8. Afternoon siesta

The absolute favorite item on this list for 99 percent of Israelis, Friday afternoon siesta in Israel is considered the holy of holies. People of all ages, denominations and backgrounds put up their feet, pick up the paper or that book they’ve been meaning to read and spend a happy hour or two lying in bed. The more serious among us also go to sleep. Speaking from experience, there is nothing as refreshing as sleeping around 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon.

9. Kabbalat Shabbat

Friday evenings mark the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, and as such have their own celebration called Kabbalat Shabbat, or welcoming in the Sabbath. The nice thing is that you don’t have to be particularly observant to participate in one. More traditional people will light candles, say a few blessings and sing songs, but so will many non-religious ones, albeit in slightly different settings. It’s not uncommon to see Kabbalat Shabbat celebrations in parks, beaches and even entertainment complexes.

10. Friday night dinner

Last but definitely not least on our list is Friday night dinner, the event toward which the whole day gears itself. The shopping, the flowers, the cleaning, the nap – they’re all carried out to make sure we have the nicest and most delicious evening possible. It’s virtually unheard of to eat Friday night dinner by yourself, to the point where random strangers will invite you into their homes if they hear that’s your plan for the evening. Prepare yourself for copious amounts of food, high decibels and all-around Israeliness. Shabbat shalom!

is a writer at ISRAEL21c. A PhD student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she loves all things history and politics. Food and fashion come a close second. Prior to joining ISRAEL21c, Naama worked for Israel’s leading English-language dailies and cutting-edge startups.