Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bicycling for Atonement

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.


Jen said...

Sounds like the one time I was in Ireland for Good Friday...they rolled up the streets.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Kewl! I'll definitely have to come for Yom Kippur one year. And... and...

Oh, hell. The list is getting a bit too long. We might have to take the Big Bosses up on that offer to go live in Israel for a year!

Robin said...

Yes please!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds so refreshing to have one quiet day, even just once a year! Thanks for submitting this entry in the carnival of cities.

Thank you also for the "lovely" adjective added to my name. I'm afraid people might actually believe! :-)

Anonymous said...

This is a great post...really gives you an idea of what it's like. The US doesn't stop for hardly anything!

Paul Squires said...

jo was right. this is all wonderfully evocative writing. very balanced and clear prose revealing a warm and open spirit,

Anonymous said...

This is so educational! I'm glad to hear that they do this. I had no idea! I can't imagine us (Americans) ever coming to a halt for anything either! A lot of us do, but, we are so diverse that it's hard to get us to all be on the same page about anything. Don't get me wrong, I love diversity, but it warms the heart to hear a continuity of faith like that. Thanks for sharing!

Robin said...

It's funny how differently people see things. You've all focused on the lack of cars, which I agree is certainly a central piece of the day. To me though, it's the phenomenon of thousands of children on bicycles taking to the streets that is so utterly sublime for me.