Asking for forgiveness or atonement is part of the Jewish tradition in the month of Elul, right before the New Year, Rosh Hashanah, lasting till Yom Kippur, the most solemn and holy day of the Jewish calendar. During this time Jerusalem comes to life in the late hours of the night and thousands of locals and tourists come to experience the magic of the night throughout the city.
To experience this nighttime event, perhaps even during your Israel Experience trip, you can stroll through different neighborhoods and locations and see what it is all about.
This is the first neighborhood that was built outside the walls of the old city. A picturesque quarter with views of the golden rooftops of Jerusalem. Built by Moshe Montefiore, who purchased the land and constructed this new type of spacious neighborhood along with a flour mill to create jobs for its inhabitants. This is an ideal place to start the tour as from its large balcony around the flour mill you can see the rest of the neighborhoods and the Old City.
This neighborhood was built by a group of both Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews who decided to leave the Old City and move outside the walls. The main characteristic of this location, aside from the variety of synagogues from which you can hear the late-night prayers, is the architecture of the houses as they were built around a central courtyard to maintain privacy. The famous Shuk Machne Yehuda (Machne Yehuda Market) is part of this neighborhood and makes this area even more bustling and full of flavor and color.
Mamila is a neighborhood in the center of Jerusalem connecting the Old City to the new one. It used to be a commercial center for Jews and Arabs and today it is a popular boardwalk. Mamila was witness to the many battles throughout Jerusalem’s history but finally, recently, has undergone a major renovation. It houses a few local icons: The Jaffa Gate, The Tower of David, the Jerusalem Wall, and more.
The Four Sephardic Synagogues
After the Jewish settlement grew in the Old City, inside the Walls where the Jews settled to be protected from invadors, there became a need for more synagogues and so four new synagogues were built – Yochanan Ben Zachai Synagogues, Istanbul Synagogue, Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, and Haemtzai (theMiddle) Synagogue. These were built during the Uthmany reign where each one has a different style.
The Western Wall
The last location on the tour of Selichot is the one and only Western Wall. This location, during this time, will have thousands of people praying together in unison. The site is astonishing.
Experiencing Yom Kippur in Israel, specifically in Jerusalem, is truly unique and eye-opening. Walking through the city for Selichot is a spiritual and learning experience to be a part of whether you are religious or not. This is a time to reflect, open up and be part of our history, our present, and our future.