Yom Kippur is a day of reflection, prayer and community – not to mention not eating and drinking for 25 hours. In Israel, most Jews do fast and also do something special for the Day of Atonement, a national holiday, even if they don’t make it to synagogue, where services typically are very lengthy.
The holiest day of the Jewish calendar also requires a bit of preparation, such as the tashlich ceremony, shown below. Usually performed on or shortly after Rosh Hashanah, tashlich is a purification ritual where one’s sins of the previous year are symbolically cast (in the form of bread crumbs) into natural flowing water.
Another famous sin-cleansing ritual performed by the devout ahead of Yom Kippur is kaparot, where traditionally a chicken or sack of coins is swung over the head to remove the year’s burden. The chicken is then slaughtered and given to the needy, or the money donated to the poor.
In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, Jews from all walks of life make a special effort to attend selichot, late-night or early-morning sessions of repentance prayers.
On Yom Kippur itself, Israel’s streets famously become a paradise for bike riders, as driving is taboo during the holiday. Hordes of bicyclist children rampaging through formerly congested thoroughfares is a typical scene.
Even in secular Tel Aviv, the bicycle reigns supreme on the Day of Atonement. Each year, paramedics treat thousands of bicycle-related injuries on Yom Kippur, along with many cases of illness brought about by the long fast.
Of course, religion and bicycles are not for everyone, and on a day when the weather is still nice but businesses are closed and the buses don’t run, the beach is a powerful draw.