Sunday, September 23, 2007


Yom Kippur in Israel has to be experienced to be believed. Picture this. For almost twenty-six hours the entire country is silent.

No traffic what-so-ever is on the road. Perhaps an ambulance, here and there, but it has to have a very good reason before it can get safely to its destination.

No televison. No raidos. Silence.

The only sound to be heard is the sound of people praying in the various synagogues. Even people walking in the streets speak in hushed tones.

The food is all cooked and waiting for the final meal before the fast. A pice of cake is eaten. Another glass of sweet tea is drunk. A final cigarette is smoked.

Before lighting candles it is decided which lights will be left on in the house. A hallway? A bathroom?

Yorzeit candles, twenty-four hour candles used when in mourning or remembering the dead are lit. Shabbat candles are burning.

And then the silence takes over.

In the morning a new sound is added...the sound of the children playing in the street. The little ones are safe today to ride their bikes and skate boards. Up and down. They are too young to fast. They are free to ride the wind. What sins could these little ones possibly have to atone for?

The day passes. And with it the thoughts go through your mind. Asking forgiveness; remembering loved ones who no longer are with us; pleading that those you love be written up for another good and healthy year.

And on top of it all is the silence. An entire country is silent. The strength of that silence is awesome. It is binding. It is a link between family and strangers. All sharing the same space. All listening to the same quiet. All praying the same prayers. Watch over our soldiers, God. Keep Israel safe. Bring our boys back home safe and sound.

Whether you fast or not; whether you believe or not; no one is unaffected by the silence of Yom Kippur. Whether you pray all day or send out a quick plea to God, the air is filled with wishes and hopes and dreams. Clean air. Quiet air. Waiting to be filled with Israel's prayers.

I was a young wife and mother that Yom Kippur in 1973. Like this year, it fell on a shabbat. I was taking a little walk with my husband and another couple of friends of ours. Two o'clock in the afternoon we were standing in the middle of King George Street and Jaffa Road...where the big X is. The streets were empty. The silence amazing. And the sirens went off.

My husband grabbed me and pulled me into the archway of a closed shop. Egypt and Syria have gone to war!

I thought, 'What the hell do I care? Let them kill each other.' See, it never entered my mind that they were at war with US!

They made one mistake that year. Yom Kippur is the only day in the country of Israel where everyone knows where everyone is. And where every soldier can be reached in a matter of moments. They are all in their homes or at shul praying.

Today, after living in Israel for thirty-seven years, I know what war is. I know what intifada is and I know what sirens are peaceful and what aren't.

I stood in my window overlooking the neighbourhood as Yom Kippur was ending. Soon we could all drink and eat. Soon we would turn on the TV and pick up the phones to see how our loved ones came through the fast. We would take one more chance to wish each other a good year.

I looked at the sky. The required two stars were shining. Then I heard it...the shofar. From the shul up the street where my son davens when he is in the neighborhood. Two blocks away and it was so silent that I heard the shofar.

A sweet and good year to you all.

Have a great day...stay safe...and thanks for dropping in.


At 9:48 PM, Blogger Jungle Mom said...

OH! thank you for sharing this. I did enjoy reading it and of your memory from 1973.

At 6:24 AM, Blogger muse said...

beautiful post

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Val said...

Very nice writing - - thanks for sharing.


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