Yom Kippur: Taking the streets

Posted on

by — Posted in In Pictures, Israel, Travelogue

This year the Day of Atonement fell on shabbat. So businesses closed in the early afternoon, as usual. The buses stopped running. I had a worship watch at Succat Hallel at 8 p.m. I left my apartment at 7 expecting the the streets to be empty, like most shabbats.

Instead, I found the streets alive with children on bikes, scooters, skates. Parents with smaller children pushed strollers. Others sat at bus stop benches chatting.

Children will be children, so this shabbat night was filled with peals of laughter and shouts, the sound of skateboards on asphalt and bicycles whizzing past.

On my way home at 10:30, the streets were even more full, especially in German Colony. The intersection of Emek Refaim and Rachel Imenu was teaming with young people, now mostly teens and 20-somethings. Some even sat in the middle of the street, taking advantage that not even the taxis were out this night. The buzz of hundreds conversing was loud.

Before I entered German Colony, a passed a group of maybe a dozen Ethiopian Jews, probably heading to the Old City to pray at the Western Wall. It was the first time I’d seen a group of the Africans. I’ve seen many more Ethiopians this time in the Land, but just one or two on the bus or working security. They are integrating, despite the resistance from some circles. I smiled as I passed these dark Jews, the men in kippas (yarmulkes), some draped with their tallit (prayer shawl). The women were in smart dresses and smelled of flowery perfumes as they passed me.

On Saturday morning, the cyclists were again young, under 10. I saw one dad teaching his daughter how to ride her bike without training wheels. He would give her a push and she would pedal several yards, mostly straight. One time she veered toward the curb, probably afraid to turn the handle bars too much. She braced for impact as she had yet to find the hand brakes. But she put her feet down in time to stop. Later, I saw her dad but not her. She was a block away, seemingly having gotten the hang of it.

According to Wikipedia,

Yom Kippur is a legal holiday in the modern state of Israel. There are no radio or television broadcasts, airports are shut down, there is no public transportation, and all shops and businesses are closed. …

It is considered impolite to eat in public on Yom Kippur or to drive a motor vehicle. There is no legal prohibition on driving or eating in public but in practice such actions are frowned upon, except in emergency services.

Yeah, frowned upon. At one point on Friday night, a car drove past us, slowly, the driver probably knowing pedestrians were in the middle of the road. One woman kept turning back to look in the direction the car had gone, in disgust, seemingly.

In my head, I said, ‘Eh! Goy!’ then laughed and said, ‘Ani goy!’ (Eh! Gentile! … I’m a gentile!) Like I said, this was all in my head.

I only have two photos because it is the holiest day of the year in Israel, after all. I did not feel comfortable pulling out my camera. In the end, I opted for the camera phone for its discretion.

This last photo points us to the last of the three fall feasts, Sukkot aka Feast of Tabernacles. More on that next week.

One thought on “Yom Kippur: Taking the streets

Comments are closed.