Observing Yom Kippur in Israel

Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement is a unique day in Israel. it is the most holiest and solemn day in the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated ten days after Rosh Hashana which usually falls every fall season of each year. Yom Kippur is the day where Jews of all levels of religiousness and Israel comes to a halt. During this holiday, people observe a fast day that lasts up to 25 hours. They also have a festival called KolNidre which begins at sundown and ends the following evening. But how exactly did the holiday start in the country and what’s it like celebrating it in Israel?

History and Meaning of Yom Kippur

According to the experts, the very first Yom Kippur happened after the Israelites’ migration from Egypt and their arrival at Mount Sinai, the place where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. After Moses descended from the mountain, he saw his people worshipping a golden calf and he shattered the sacred tablets in anger. The Israelites apologized for their idolization and God forgave their sins and gave Moses another set of tablets.

According to Jewish texts, during the biblical times Yom Kippur was the only day where the high priest could enter the inner shrine of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Inside, the high priest would perform a sequence of rituals then sprinkle blood that came from sacrificed animals on the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the Ten Commandments is located. The ritual that was performed by the high priest was to make atonement and ask for God’s forgiveness on behalf of all the people in Israel. it is said that this tradition carried on until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. The tradition was then adapted into service for rabbis and their churchgoers in individual synagogues.

According to the Yom Kippur tradition, God judges all beings during the 10 days of Awe that happens between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. God decides whether they will live or die in the coming year and Jewish law teaches that God lists the names of the good people in the book of life and he condemns the bad people to death on Rosh Hashanah. People who fallbetween the good and bad categories have until Yom Kippur to perform repentance. That is why observant Jews consider the days leading up to Yom Kippur as a time for good deeds, prayers, making amends with others, and reflecting on past mistakes.

What’s Yom Kippur Like in Israel?

Yom Kippur is the one day in Israel when all normal life across the country stops. All of the businesses are closed such as banks, restaurants, and other places of leisure. Evenall of the transportation stops, and by transportation we mean private cars,  busses, trains, and even their airport. That is why during Yom Kippur, the roads of Israel become totally empty for the rest of the day with the exemption of emergency vehicles and children riding bikes. Riding bikes during Yom Kippur in Israel have become some sort of tradition since all the transportation means are inaccessible during this day.

If you’re planning to visit Israel during this holiday, be advised that there are almost no cultural sites or museums that are open during Yom Kippur. That is why your best option during this day is to walk and observe the different ways Jews across the country observe the day. Breathe in the peace and serenity of Israel because there are no noise and no cars around.