October 11th 2016
Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, a solemn occasion celebrated on some level by nearly all Jews regardless of affiliation. Tourists should be aware of the customs of the day even if they aren’t planning on observing the fast itself in order to be respectful of the natives and traditions, and not to miss out.
People do not eat, drink, bathe, or wear leather during the entire 24 hours of Yom Kippur. As such, most restaurants, museums, and public services are closed for the day. Even hotel restaurants are severely limited. Travelers should meal plan accordingly.
Transportation is almost exclusively closed down for the day. Even non-religious Jews avoid driving in cars on this day, and even the airports and train stations are closed. Travelers should bear this in mind when planning their trips for the day.
Religious Jews will spend the vast majority of time in synagogue reciting the special prayers of the day. Tourists can visit any of the prayer halls found across the country to take part in this monumental annual event for the Jewish people.
And now for the fun stuff. Here are a few activities that tourists can enjoy even when there’s a countrywide break.
Whether you pray frequently or not at all, visiting a synagogue can be an uplifting experience for any traveler. Israel is covered in some of the oldest and most beautiful synagogues, and history buffs will enjoy the stroll through the centuries that a well-guided tour of these ancient halls can provide. Architecture and art fans will also appreciate some of the stunning design elements found in these old buildings.
It has become a national tradition among secular Israelis to ride bikes during Yom Kippur. Since roads are closed, citizens particularly around Tel Aviv take to the highways and streets with their bikes, riding up and down all day long. If you are a cyclist, this is the perfect opportunity to get out and ride freely.
Since public (and most private) transportation is closed, Yom Kippur is the perfect time to get out and walk around Israel. Visit various neighborhoods in Jerusalem, see how locals really live (though usually with more cars and fewer bicycles), and take in the beautiful countryside and natural elements Israel has to offer.
Every holiday holds a special power to it, and that is something that must be experienced in Israel at least once. Come visit the Holy Land for the holiest day of the year, and stay for the exciting Sukkot celebrations too!