There isn’t as much to say about Yom Kippur compared to the other holidays. Most of the day is spent in synagogue, an experience that is pretty much the same in Israel as it is back in the United States. We also spend the day fasting, which is always a fun experience. Amazingly, it is the easiest fast of the year for us. We aren’t sure why, but that is how it always feels.
So what is there to say about Yom Kippur in Israel? The most amazing part of the holiday is the fact that there are absolutely no cars on the road for the entire 25 hours. Because of this, our friends refer to it as “National Bike Day” since throughout the holiday there are tons of people riding their bikes down the center of the road. It may seem silly to mention this since the roads of Jerusalem clear every week for Shabbat, but the truth is that they don’t. While there are significantly less cars on the roads on Shabbat and the other holidays, there are still quite a few. Given that we live in a big city in a busy area, it is very quiet on these days in comparison to normal weekdays, and while we can often cross the street without waiting for the lights, we still have to be careful. On Yom Kippur, everyone, and I mean everyone, agrees not to drive since there is no law against it. The roads are absolutely clear except for a few ambulances that drive around to make sure people are okay since they are fasting. They were especially worried this year because the temperature was somewhere in the 90s. At night, we walked in the middle of the street on our way home. Kids were shouting with delight as they rode bikes and scooters. It felt very strange to be walking in the middle of a street that is normally packed with traffic, so strange that we tended to walk toward the side of the street close to the sidewalk, even though it was completely unnecessary.
Other than that, it was your typical Yom Kippur. Adam and I had our usual pre-fast dinner of meatballs and pasta to help us carbo-load before the fast. We tried to drink tons of water since we knew it was going to be very hot and dry. We stayed indoors as much as possible, which wasn’t too hard since services ran pretty much all day with only a two hour break. I left the morning service early to be with a friend who was put on bed rest for the fast since she is pregnant. It worked out because it is hard to have Adina in synagogue that long. She did wonderfully by the way…she slept most of services and ate whenever she was hungry. To her it was just a typical day! I did fast after consulting our rabbi. He told me that it is important to start the fast even if I couldn’t finish it. If I started to not feel well, I could eat or drink an ounce of something every seven minutes. If I continued to do that for a bit and still didn’t feel well, then I was supposed to break my fast since health is always more important. I was prepared to follow our rabbi’s advice, expecting to feel bad around noon on Yom Kippur day, but I continued to feel good straight until the end of the fast. Actually on our way home from synagogue after the fast ended, I felt like I could go a few more hours without food. Once we started eating, however, I remembered how wonderful food can be! My fasting didn’t seem to affect Adina…she was a bit fussier than usual the following day but that disappeared pretty quickly.
Yom Kippur gave us another opportunity to reflect on our year, our ourselves, and to remember how blessed we are. It was a very meaningful experience.
Until next time…