The holiest day of the year and I was in Israel...nice.
18.09.2010 - 19.09.2010
For those of you that may not know about Yom Kippur, here’s a quick review. Yom Kippur (aka, the Day of Atonement) is the holiest day of the year for Jews. It’s a day of atonement and repentance. This holiday is probably best known for long services at a synagogue and a 25-hour period of fasting, which is a good part of it. Yom Kippur is about correcting yourself to both God and the people you may have effected through your actions. It also completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days. To sum it up … Pray. Don’t eat. Get forgiven.
So that’s the basics. For me it was a memorable experience on many levels. Spiritually it is a significant act to observe Yom Kippur. But to do it in Israel added an entirely new meaning. Physically it was a struggle. I had nothing to eat or drink for 25 hours. I also had some leftover jetlag. In addition, you are supposed to prepare yourself by eating well and drinking lots of liquids the night before, which I could have done better. Finally, it was a worldly experience to see the people of a nation shut down almost completely and share one thing in common.
It all started about at 5:00PM. I found a service at Beit Daniel. It was listed as a good place for visitors to Israel. Since it was Yom Kippur, no busses or cars were allowed on the road after 5:00. That meant walking there and walking back. It’s about a 40 minute walk, so I got an early start.
In the US, I would normally dress up for a high holiday service. However, in Tel Aviv, jeans and sneakers were acceptable. It’s a good thing too since I would be walking about 4km. When I got to the synagogue, there were over 100 people waiting to be seated. They were all from out of town and waiting for the main congregation to get their seats first. So I waited with the rest of out-of-towners and ended up talking with someone from South Africa.
The congregation was finally seated and the rest of us poured in. I knew to get a good seat, both for viewing and leaving early if it was a long service. The service began with a few words from the rabbi in Hebrew and the service began with the Kol Nidre. I wont bore you with the details of the service, but I will let you know it felt almost familiar. Many of the melodies were different and there was a lot I didn’t understand, but I followed along pretty well.
I wish I had more pictures for you to look at, but there’s nothing to show and you can’t take pictures in the temple. So thank you if you are still reading. This is where it gets good.
Services end two and a half hours later and yes I stayed the whole time. When I went outside it was amazing. There were thousands of people in the street.
Some were biking…some were walking…some were just sitting and talking. (Did that sound like Dr Seuss?)
Every bicycle in Tel Aviv was present and accounted for. Thousands I tell you!
After a few minutes of taking this in, I start the long walk home. It’s dark, there are no cars, no busses, no planes flying overhead. Just the sound of people. During the entire walk back I saw celebrations on the car and busless streets.
All of this was doing a good job at distracting me from the thought of no food and water for 22 more hours. I got back a little before 10:00 and headed to bed soon after.
In Israel, it’s a tradition to walk or bike along the highway on the morning of Yom Kippur. When else do you get to play in the road? Steve is not religious, but this was still a fun experience for him. We left his place to walk down Ayalon (pronounced Eye-Alone) Highway. The plan was to walk down one ramp, along the highway and up the next exit ramp.
We walked along the main roads to get to the highway. We saw a lonely military girl on guard duty. She was the only one we saw working. The best part was taking the highway exit ramp on foot. Once down the ramp, we saw this enormous road emerge…completely empty. Ayalon was all alone. Haha.
It had kind of a Twilight Zone last-men-on-earth feel.
Soon we see the bikers, joggers and roller bladers join in the fun. It was so strange to see this massive highway carry only bikes and pedestrians.
Some decided to just hang out in the right lane.
The two were just standing in the middle of the road.
After 45 minutes of walking, we got to the exit ramp.
This is when I hit the wall. I quickly learned a new math formula… walking + heat + lack of water = stupidity. Steve kept me going and I made it back without any major health issues. The stairs to his place almost killed me though. If you remember, he lives on the 4th floor and there is no elevator. Home at last. I think I’m going to…ZZZZZZZ
After a “short” two-hour cat nap, I awoke feeling a little better but really hungry and thirsty… Ug, two more hours to go. I needed a distraction. Reut, no surprise, suggested playing Wii. Video games are a great distraction, but one that makes you move and jump around was a bit ironic. The time passes and the distractions work.
6:20. DING! Holy High Holidays Batman, I did it! Give me something…Anything!!! First was draining what was left of my water bottle. Next was food. I devoured some cheese and crackers! I wanted to have a nice dinner to celebrate. The snack held me over until the restaurants reopen.
Steve and I walked down Ibn Gvirol Blvd and tried a few places. Most were opening at 8:30. Drat! We finally found Indira, an Indian restaurant, that was open at 7:45. We had a nice meal and I was finally full. Indian Curry was kind of an odd way to end a Jewish holiday, but there are no rules about where to eat.