Celebrating Israel

Israel Does Yom Kippur

Tags: Holidays, History, Yom Kippur, Religion

In Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is the day on which God assesses the deeds of each person and decides their fate for the coming year. Religious Jews spend the day fasting, praying and repenting for past sins in hope of being forgiven.

"For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD. It is a sabbath of solemn rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; it is a statute for ever. [Leviticus]

Even though Yom Kippur is not directly related to a historical event, there are many who believe that this holiday honors the time that Moses came down from Mt Sinai with the second set of the Ten Commandments, and G-d forgave the Israelites for the sin of the Golden Calf. The days leading up to it are of course the days of repentance, when we ask forgiveness for our sins of the previous year.

In the Diaspora, all aspects of this observance are personal. In Israel, the sense of community and belonging to the land pervade even our most pensive moments.

Israel is the only place in the world where the newspapers and radio announcers share tips on how to prepare: have an egg for breakfast, drink 10 cups of water during the day and eat lots of carbohydrates. For those who are fasting, it is much appreciated advice. For those who are not, it still entices a smile.

Yom Kippur in Israel is considered to be the most environmentally sound day of the year in any country in the world.The Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry reports that pollution is 100 times lower during these 25 hours - and also the most silent.

Photo by Keven Frayer

58% of Israeli Jews fast on Yom Kippur. While some do so as a cleansing or a forced day of rest, some 55% see it as a day of atonement.

Sadly, throughout Israel, there are many who cannot experience this day without honoring the memory of the famed Yom Kippur War when on Saturday October 6th, 1973, as all of Israel came to a standstill, Egyptian and Syrian (receiving aid from other Arab nations such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait) forces launched a surprise attack against Israel knowing she would be caught off-guard.

A special version of the powerful prayer U'Netaneh Tokef was written in memory of 11 soldiers of a single community of 300 Jews in Kibbutz Beit HaShita. Today there is a new initiative to introduce this memory into the observance of every Jewish community around the world.

Whether one is fasting in atonement or mourning the loss of Jewish life lost during the Yom Kippur War, this day is truly special and unique in the Jewish State as we find ourselves united in honoring the sacred day for personal and collective reasons alike. There is certainly nothing like the experience of Yom Kippur in the Holy Land...



On this Yom Kippur, experience this
Holy Day in Israel

Tags: Holidays, History, Yom Kippur, Religion