A Travellerspoint blog

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is considered the most holy day in the Jewish calendar and the conclusion of the New Years ritual. Known in English as the Day of Atonement, it is the day when traditionally the prayer gates of heaven are closed and the decision made on Rosh HaShana as to whether or not an individual has been written in the Book of Life for that coming year is sealed. The day is generally spent in solemn prayer, confession and fasting. There is a traditional 25 hour fast which begins after dinner (right before sundown) the night before Yom Kippur and ends the night of Yom Kippur. In Israel there are no television and radio broadcasts for the day. Business, shops, schools and public transportation are closed. Airports are shut down. Religious Israeli's spend the day in prayer and meditation at home or in their synagogue. Most secular Israeli's choose to fast and pass the time by watching movies or sitting in groups playing board games and counting the hours until the appointed hour at which the fast may be broken. Most who observe the fast also go to the service at the synagogue. Secular Israeli's who choose not to fast (and thus have considerably more energy than their more religious brothers) go for a quiet bike ride through the mountains or down the center lane of the highway with a close friend or two. The city's are painfully quiet. It is not forbidden to drive on Yom Kippur but it is considered extremely rude to do so with out an emergency reason (which is why it is the one safe day for bikers to utilize the normally super dangerous Israeli roadways!).

I spent Yom Kipper with friends on a Kibbutz in northern Israel. The Kibbutz was made up of half non observant who bar b qued and went swimming and half observant who spent the day either shut away in their rooms or clustered in lawn chairs in the shade talking about life, books and the food they were craving. Tradition not only inflicts fasting; tradition also prescribes feasting. The dinner before the fast is traditionally a huge feast and the fast is broken with a large feast as well.

As is typical with New Years, resolutions are made but the ones made at Yom Kippur are taken a bit more seriously, at least for the first part of the year. Just the fact that they are called "vows" and not "resolutions" begs a more serious mindset when initiating such for the year ahead. Many traditional prayers are recited. The Yom Kippur service is known to be the longest of the whole year. The day is concluded by reading the entire book of Jonah because it is a story about repentance and forgiveness. The day is closed with the reciting of the Shema and a final sounding of the shofar to signal that the gates to heaven have been closed for the coming year.

Posted by Sarah 2116 17:45 Comments (1)

Cafe Hillel


I found a new coffee house to add to my favorites list. It is called Cafe Hillel which means cafe praise. Cafe Hillel is a chain here in Israel. http://www.cafe-hillel.co.il/ There are currently 14 coffee house chains in Israel and at least 2 of those chains have now opened cafe's in at least 6 other countries.

Israeli's will tell you they can detect an American immediately in a coffee shop because they are the ones chewing on a pencil while poring over a stack of papers and textbooks. To the Israeli a coffee house is a place to come and relax with a friend after the homework is done. To the American the coffee house is the ideal environment to study in. It is quiet with out the temptation to fall asleep like at home with an endless supply of sugary, caffeinated beverages. Plus it resembles their beloved Starbucks which they left at home. So today I was again poring over my Hebrew homework in Cafe Hillel pretending not to notice the curious glances of the other coffee house patrons. Once a woman came over to my table and after examining my papers asked me (in Hebrew) if I was an English teacher!

Posted by Sarah 2116 07:49 Comments (0)



Of all the things I counted on missing, I did not expect for rain to be on the list. Last night I heard raindrops for the first time since arriving in Israel in May. In fact, over the Rosh HaShana holiday, Israel received the equivalent amount of rain as what she usually gets over the entire months of September and October put together. This rain comes after 5 years of severe drought. It hasn't rained more since the middle of the night last night but I have my windows wide open in anticipation!

Posted by Sarah 2116 14:16 Comments (2)

Happy New Year

שנה טובה shana tova

What do apples, honey and fish heads have in common? If you say that they are all the symbols for the same holiday that is correct! The holiday is Rosh HaShana the Jewish New Year. Other symbols include pomegranate and the shofar.

Rosh HaShana is traditionally the Jewish New Year. Sometimes it is referred to as the Feast of Trumpets because on this day, the shofar is sounded from the synagogue. This is meant to be a wake up call to examine ones deeds, make emends and make things right with God because on this day God pulls out His three books. In one book is recorded the names of the righteous. There is also a book filled with the names of the wicked. The third book is called the book of life. The righteous names automatically get transferred to the book of life but everyone else has ten days to examine their deeds and ask God for His pardon. There is even a tradition called "tashlich" in which people gather around a river to recite prayers and throw pebbles, bread crumbs or coins into the running water to symbolize throwing off their sins. Ten days after Rosh HaShana is Yom Kipur, or the Day of Atonement in which you are sealed for one year; you are either in or you are out.

Rosh HaShana is a time for big family meals and to bless friends and family with your good wishes. Some people send out Rosh HaShana cards full of good wishes for the new year or instead some spend the whole day before making phone call wishes. A typical Rosh HaShana wish is "May your name be written and sealed for a good year." There are also traditional wishes for good health, happiness and a prosperous year.

רוש של דג Fish head- Well after all it is the HEAD of the year! You think I am joking? The fish head is a wish that you will be a head (not a tail) in the year ahead. Literally, Rosh HaShana means head of the year.
רימון Pomegranate- Have you ever tried to eat a pomegranate? There are about a billion juicy little seeds inside. So the pomegranate is a wish that your blessings in the new year will be as numerous as the number of seeds crowded inside a pomegranate.
תפוח Apple- To be dipped into honey to represent a wish for a super sweet year.
דבש Honey- A wish for a sweet year ahead
שופר Shofar- On each of the two days of Rosh HaShana the shofar is sounded 100 times. Now that's a wake up call!

Below is a link to a beautiful song about going to seek mercy by a very famous Israeli singer. I couldn't find the English translation anywhere so below is the translation to the best of my ability.


The Mercy Gate

I am going around an old city
And there is noise in all the corners
I already know
I already know my way
The way to the gate of mercy

No looking around
No listening
I will have dreams
It is always like this
I know my way
I know my way to the gate of mercy.

Live once only once
With trial; without trial
With strength; without strength
Mercy Gate
Come with me
Come because of your fear
Because you are also part
Of this gate

Banners on the shops
People watching in the street
Inside, my heart is shouting
Show me the way to the mercy gate

Posted by Sarah 2116 11:27 Comments (0)

Tel Aviv's Flower Carpet


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the city of Tel Aviv. Founded by 60 families, Tel Aviv has grown to be Israel's business capital and home to about 2 million. In honor of this festive occasion Tel Aviv received flowers yesterday. Half a million to be exact. The city of Brussels gave 500,000 flowers to the city of Tel Aviv as a birthday gift. Over a hundred volunteers and a team of designers from Brussels assembled the flowers into a bouquet like no other. It is more like a carpet actually. The design features symbols from Tel Aviv's history, the Middle East, and classic tiles from old, distinguished houses in Tel Aviv. The carpet is a photographers nightmare because from the ground there is no way to get a good, complete shot of the whole design; unless one hired a helicopter perhaps! The array of colors are truly spectacular...just like the friendly generosity of the city of Brussels.


See the camel?

Everyone received a little card with a view of the carpet and a little potted pink petunia. On this picture you can see the complete design.

This guy managed to get better photos than I did:

The carpet was "planted" in Rabin Square which is a memorial to Israel's fifth Prime Minister. The location is the site where he was assassinated in 1995.

Posted by Sarah 2116 14:17 Comments (0)

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