Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, came to a close this evening, which can only mean that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is soon to follow.
For observant Jews, and for most Jews living outside of Israel, Yom Kippur is a very solemn day, the most important holiday of the year. It is on Yom Kippur that God's decree for the coming year is inscribed in the Book of Life. Who will live and who will die. Observant Jews spend the day in prayer, fasting. Many Jews who do not practice their religion on a day to day basis observe this one holiday even if they do nothing else all year long.
Things here in Israel are a bit different. Commerce comes to a complete halt. All businesses are closed, radio and television broadcasting ceases. It is the one day of the year that the airport is shut down completely. No one, observant or not, drives anywhere, and in secular towns and cities all over the country Yom Kippur is known as the festival of bicycles.
Because custom prohibits driving on the holiday, the moment the sun sets on Yom Kippur eve the entire country takes to the street. While the adults are walking though, the children take to their wheels - bicycles, scooters, even rollerblades are brought out and hordes of happy children start freewheeling their way through the city streets. They ride right up the middle of major thoroughfares and even highways, enjoying the one day a year when everything stops.
Reflection and introspection is left to the adults walking on the sidewalks. For the children, it's all about the bicycles. Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv and all over Israel is truly a day unlike any other. Come join us one year and see for yourselves. Just don't plan to take a taxi anywhere, there won't be any.
Yom Kippur on Tel Aviv's Ayalon Highway, Photo by Isabel Maxwell
This post was written for the upcoming Carnival of Cities, being hosted by the lovely Grace of Sandier Pastures.