Friday, October 14, 2005

Yom Kippur

Wow! You’d think that Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, when Jews are supposed to ask forgiveness from God for their sins throughout the year, would be a solemn day in Israel. But, anyone in a plane flying over Israel today would think that there was a huge celebration going on!

On Yom Kippur, the entire country shuts down. Even the secular do not drive, all shops are closed, and everyone is out on the street with family or friends. I spent the holiday in Ra’anana, where Seth’s parents live, a city that has a large Anglophone community (from the United States, South Africa, Australia and Britain), a large and diverse religious community, and a large secular community. What is so nice about the city, though, is that people are tolerant towards each other, and there is a real sense of belonging.

Seth, Jon and I walked home from synagogue an hour and a half away in Kfar Saba (the next city over). We walked in the street, since they were completely abandoned, except for the occasional ambulance, and they were filled with parents walking with their infants, hundreds of young kids riding their bikes (you’d think these kids just discovered how to ride, since they were everywhere…but it was because they had the whole street to ride on!), groups of people sitting out in lawn chairs telling jokes and playing Shesh Besh (Backgammon), religious people dressed all in white (a custom, representing purity)…It was beautiful to see, on the most important Jewish day, the coming to life of the Jewish ideal, and the principle Israel was based on: Jews, from diverse backgrounds, celebrating the Jewish people, accepting one another and building a community together.

Seth, Amira, Jon and I at Seth's parents' "Break the Fast" Party!

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