Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Yom Kippur In Israel

May all your roads to happiness be clear. (Acre, August 2019)
I've been AWOL on the blog due to traveling and then having to catch up with real life, and a bit of apathy tbh. I keep composing great blog posts in my head and never getting round to typing them  up and publishing. Oh well. This is how it goes in Israel... July and August are the long summer break for schools, and then when you get back to normality, the Jewish festivals kick in. These festivals (New Year, Day of Atonement, Sukkot) last over three weeks with regular days in between during which you have no idea what day it is as every other day seems to be a weekend. Nothing really starts until after the festivals.

This year the festivals are late due to an extra leap-month back in the spring. Instead of falling during September as usual, they only started on October 2nd. All this to say, don't expect any sort of routine from me until the end of October.

Luckily my friend Leonie Lachmish wrote this lovely description of what it's like celebrating Yom Kippur (Atonement) in Israel. I am copying it here with her permission.

Yom Kippur in Israel

By Leonie Lachmish

Every Erev Yom Kippur, while we were bringing up young children, I'd make sure the radio was on for the 2pm news so we could all hear the announcement that Israel's National Airport, Ben Gurion Airport (that functions 24/7) was closing down until after Yom Kippur (around 30 hours later) and then that all the radio stations were ceasing their broadcasts until after Yom Kippur. Every year it thrilled me (and still does) that a modern industrialized high-tech country, shuts down for the holiest of days , Yom Kippur. I don't know of any phenomenon like it anywhere else in the world.

Having been away for Israel during the Ten Days of Repentance over the past 10 years, it was a joy today, two days before Yom Kippur, to hear the radio channels broadcasting songs for Yom Kippur, and discussions about repentance and starting over and saying sorry and being forgiving and changing one's life - from different viewpoints, religious, secular and over the whole spectrum. And all in Hebrew, the language of the Bible, the language of the ancient Yom Kippur prayers.

In the Gemara , it is asserted that a Jew should always live in the Land of Israel, even if surrounded by pagans , rather than outside the Land of Israel even if surrounded by Jews.

I'd add: especially in our modern-day State of Israel, where the Jewish festivals are national holidays and you can know which festival is approaching just from the ads on TV, where the sights, sounds and smells reflect which festival we're at. There is also a spirituality or form of Jewishness in Israel where thousands, even millions, of Israelis who don't count themselves as religious, are nonetheless strongly connected to and in love with their roots, their language, culture and tradition and the land of Israel.

Tomorrow, for the duration of Yom Kippur, there is no law against driving your car but practically nobody does. In Jewish areas , the only cars will be emergency vehicles and ambulances taking medical staff to their hospital shifts. Children on scooters and bikes take over the roads.

Within minutes of the end of Yom Kippur on Wednesday night, after people have broken their fast, maybe just a drink and a slice of cake for those who can't wait to perform the next mitzva, all over the country we'll hear the sound of hammers and nails as Succot (Tabernacles) booths start to be erected in gardens, on balconies, outside restaurants, etc. By Sunday, they will be complete, decorated with children's drawings and colourful pictures and Sunday evening begins our 7-day Succot Festival.
May we all be sealed in the Book of Life ! צום קל וחתימה טובה

And from me: I wish everyone a good year, a successful academic year, a fulfilling twelve months, happy, healthy and full of joy. May you be written in the book of life. 


  1. Thank you for sharing that description of Yom Kippur, it's fascinating as an outsider to get an insight into your lives and what's important for you all.

    Also I may have to share the photo caption... I really love it xx

    1. Thanks Candi, and you are welcome to use the caption. xxx

  2. Welcome back - and thank you for that interesting post. I used to work at York University here in Toronto and so many of our students, profs & administrators were Jewish that we just shut the university for a couple of days and made up the time in the Spring.
    We used to be "Toronto the Good" and shops didn't open on a Sunday - I often wish it was still like that - there never seems to be a "day of rest" these days.
    I'm assuming that you were also away for your brother's wedding so hoping to hear all about that!

    1. Thanks Margie. Yes we were away for the wedding so I'm about to do a R2BC about it. I know what you mean about never shutting down for a day of rest. I also think it's a shame.