Yom Kippur Gesture

“For as long as I can remember myself, and during all the many years I’ve been living in Israel, Yom-Kippur was the day of strolling along the streets. It was such a strong tradition that not to do so used to look weird, and when young- made you unpopular. It was best seen during Yom-Kippur eve, immediately after the specific prayer was performed, as this was the time the streets were filled with both religious and non-religious people, since the religious ones will spend most of next day at the synagogues. As this holiest day is a day-without-cars in Israel, the strolling took place mainly on the roads but also on the pavements, and went on for hours. Because this day is a holiday, we all were very nicely dressed and strolled together with our best friends. One of the purposes was to meet as many friends as possible, and to chat with everyone we met, at least for a few minutes.

Looking back at all those years, I can see a few reasons for this tradition that I was not able to see then, mainly because one doesn’t ponder too much into traditions… I now believe that there two major reasons, of almost an opposite nature: the wish to be together on this most important day in the Jewish religion, and boredom, as there was not much to do in a day when the TV didn’t broadcast programs and cars were not allowed to drive. Still, as this tradition continues on these days, when there exists DVD players and play stations etc, there is a strong possibility that the first reason is actually the most genuine one. There are, of course, the common social reasons of to-see-and-be-seen, as everybody is there and maybe to get “fasting support” from all the other people whom fast on this holy day as well. “

Reading my mother’s description brought me years back to those Yom-Kippur days in Israel, which I liked very much. I remember the strolls, being allowed outside until late hours, as it was a “safe night”, like an adult, meeting everybody I wanted to meet (boys in particular) while looking pretty in white clothing coming from the Synagogue. To this was added the fact that I didn’t suffer from not eating since even if I was religious, I was under the age of 12, which meant I did not need to fast on this holy day yet. So for me it was all fun and joy, only for the social reasons.

For the kids especially it was fun because we also safely rode our bikes, it was a day when the whole city became our park and we can go wild (as wild as possible on a holy day). I remember the peer pressure of going to meet your friends and seeing who is allowed out the longest. I think the beauty of this tradition, and the reason why it goes on, is that for one day, everything of an “outside” or of “materialistic” nature stops. No cars, no television, your biggest problems seize for a day because it’s a day of repentance and asking for forgiveness. It’s a day marked by humbleness and a day marked by a new start. After this day, you begin with a clean slate, and so you walk the streets looking back at all the things that this time around you will do your best not to do again.