Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Yom Kippur-Tel Aviv Style
Yom Kippur: the Day of Atonement for religious Israelis, and the Day of Cyclists’ Paradise for secular Israelis. The scene is remarkable. Imagine Snowmagedon in 70-degree weather with a slight breeze. Cars are few and far between, but the highways and avenues are bustling with pedestrians and cyclists, young and old, from every part of Tel Aviv. Those who aren’t on the move are sitting in parks chatting, singing, and playing bongos.
I started off Yom Kippur at a secular, youth service on a rooftop with my housemates. After the service, we walked right down the middle of boulevards that are notorious for their vicious drivers, heading towards the beach. As soon as we reached the sand, we realized that we had to jump in for an impromptu, evening swim. After splashing around for a bit and accidently breaking my fast with a few gulps of Mediterranean Sea, we set off down the beach promenade. Along the way, we wandered onto a beachside playground. It was packed. Kids and adults were running around, seemingly free of any inhabitations. Five-year-olds and twenty-five-year-olds shared playground equipment with equal energy and glee. The best part of it all was these two kids that we met. They were six and six-and-a-half, and they spoke a mile a minute in a combination of Tagalog, Hebrew, and Russian. Their conversations were hilarious—ranging from epic monologues about their migration to Israel in 1920 and the experience of being 144 years old to twenty minute squabbles consisting only of the word “Smandooza” volleyed between them. After parting from our new friends, we headed through lively parks back to out apartment.
The next morning, I went to a traditional Sephardic synagogue on our block. It was totally new for me—different prayers, tunes, and rituals. But, it was great to take part in the neighborhood for the first time and see familiar faces much closer. In the afternoon, I jumped on my bike and toured the streets. As the sun started to set, I raced back to my apartment to break the fast as soon as possible. My housemates and I jammed into our tiny kitchens to prep a feast of challah French toast and fruit salad. Ten of us ate together on the patio. After dinner, my very musical housemate pulled out early 90’s sheet music, and we all screeched out some Alanis Morsette and Matchbox 20 for a few hours.
Basically, the holiday was a cultural collage, composed of snippets from nearly every side of Tel Aviv.