Yom Kippur in Israel

The High Holidays in Israel mark off the beginning of the Jewish New Year taking place in the Fall. The first of these is Rosh Hashanah, then Yom Kippur, and finally Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

Ten days after Rosh Hashanah- the first day of the Jewish New Year is the holiest of Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur. It’s a day of atonement, of looking inward, making amends, and where the whole country ceases all activity. It’s a time where you ask for forgiveness from everyone around you and to forgive others as well. It is believed that at the end of this day, at sundown, God seals the Book of Life to decide who will live another year. 

Yom Kippur is marked by 25 hours of fasting, prayers at synagogue and in Israel, it is a day of rest for individuals and businesses. Everything closes and all normal daily activities cease. There is no public or private transportation – buses, cars, taxis, and air traffic, except for bike riding. this is a long-standing Israeli tradition where bike riders enjoy the barren streets and head out to conquer them, from small alleys to major highways. 

Synagogues are full as Kol Nidrei is said to mark off the beginning of the holiday, where during these prayers you let go of any previous ties with God and start anew. Aside from the religious significance, It is a spiritual and cultural experience to witness the prayers and congregation chant in unison. The end of the holiday is marked by the sounding of the Shofar, a clean ram’s horn, a loud high pitched sound.

If you are fortunate to spend the holidays in Israel, perhaps with one of the Israel Experience programs you will notice that the country is peaceful and quiet during Yom Kippur but people have prepared for this in advance since there are very limited services. Here are a few tips:

  • Stock up on food and cook in advance, even though it is only for 25 hours. Since it is customary to fast on this day, even those who don’t, still respect the observers and try to eat indoors and not gather for festive meals. Most restaurants will be closed.
  • Since no transportation is available and you will not drive on this day, try to plan where you want to spend the holiday and make sure you arrive before the holiday starts. This could be at a friend’s house, at a campsite, or even a hotel. Plan for some traffic because everyone else is doing the same. 
  • Take advantage of the day to explore the area on foot or by bike. 
  • Many cable TV stations will not run their usual programming.
  • Make sure all your internet or cell phone connections work if you need them since customer service not be available that day.

Le Gmar Hatima Tova. 

Meaning – A good final sealing or May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good

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