Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Middle of the Road or Atoning in the Holy Land

As I am sure most of you realise yesterday was the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Whereas outside the Jewish community the world lets this annual event pass by (except for maybe my old school which had a half day) Yom Kippur brings Israel and specifically Jerusalem to a halt. And when I say halt I mean halt, all the shops are closed and there are no cars on the streets, the implications of that I will come to later.

Yom Kippur is also a day loved by the secular firstly because they go out and have picnics (probably as near to a synagogue as possible) and
secondly because it is the perfect opportunity to ride their bicycles. Yom Kippur in Israel is also known as the Yom Offanayim (Day of Bicycles) as the street are litterally littered with people on bikes, big and small, young and old all go out on their bikes without fear of being hit by a car, although of course bike accidents are higher on yom kippur than any other day. Another thing that should be noted about yom kippur is that on the day before the clocks go back an hour which means that the fast seems shorter as it goes out an hour ealier, in practice of course its still 25 hours long.

Like all fast days the most important part of the program is eating, and both the making and breaking of the fast were made at the house of ex-Noamnic and current teacher on the Machon called Dina. I cannot even begin to describe just how much food there was for both meals, and we could not finish either trying not to be bloated at the first meal, and failing miserably at this challenge for the second.

For Kol Nidrei we went to the local Masorti synagogue called (I honestly cant remember), but the service was pleasant enough. By some strange coincedence (I may be compleltely wrong about this though) the chazzan (cantor) was the man in the chiroot of the first blog who told me that it was luckly I couldn't understand what was going on in the chiroot. Following the service I returned to the kiryat for a couple of hours before venturing out around 11pm to the western wall (kotel). I was accompanined by four others from the Machon on a very pleasant walk, being careful to stay in the centre of the road. As I said at the beginning the roads were deserted and so walking down the centre of every road without fear of car was an experience to be relished.

On the crossroads of the first main road we saw a small group of people in the middle of the road. Such was the interest of the occasion that Richard decided to take a photo of them. This encouraged one of the boys, an American, to enquire why we were taking photo's of them. One lame excuse later, they had invited us to play cards with them, and so we sat down in the middle of a main road with a group of complete strangers to play President.

Following this amusing interlude we resumed our walk to the old city of Jerusalem. On arrival we spent around half an hour of quiet reflection, discussion and discovery beside the wall (discovering the sheer numbers of ultra-orthodox Jews who sleep by the wall on Yom Kippur night). The walk each way took about 30-40mins and we were out for about three hours in total arriving back at around 2am.

This excursion fulfilled two main aims, 1) to get to the Kotel on Yom Kippur and 2) far more importantly to completely tire me out, in order that I can sleep until the early afternoon on the following day in order to conserve as much energy as possible. The plan actually worked which was impressive and I managed to miss the entire morning service. In the afternoon I went to Shirhah Daschah (probably spelt that wrong) an Orthodox synagouge, with beautiful singing and which is notoriously hard to get a seat in. I was lucky enough however to get a very good seat throughout the whole service. The service was very nice and musical although when you are fasting you sort of wish they would skip the harmonies and hurry too the end so you can refill your stomach to a more normal level. I did however manage to survive the fast although I couldn't get to the breaking the fast, fast enough.

I probably wont post now for quite a few days as I am going camping for five days, three at the Beresheet music festival and two camping around the kineret. I will be sure to send you a fun-filled account of my life under canvas.
Until next time
N.B I have just added the picture at the top, and it is of us playing cards with some random Israelis on a main road in Jerusalem


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