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Yom Kippur in Jerusalem.

by michael August 17 2007
Things to doHolidaysJerusalem strolls
The Jewish High Holidays are coming up. It's a time of increased activity in Jerusalem, when thousands of visitors descend on the city from abroad to celebrate the New Year and atone for the past year's transgressions in a place of purportedly greater holiness. And even if you're not a religious tourist, if you come to Jerusalem during the High Holidays, you're in for a once-a-year treat unlike any other.

That treat? Yom Kippur.

On the surface, Yom Kippur doesn't have much to recommend it, especially in Israel. Nearly every business establishment in the country closes, even those run by secular Israelis. People stay indoors. And everyone is grumpier than normal because they're not eating. But nightfall brings with it one of the most bizarre spectacles one can hope to see in Israel: the invasion of the streets by armies of Israeli children armed with all manner of wheeled contraptions.

You see, because almost nobody drives on Yom Kippur, the streets are utterly desolate, which suddenly gives bikers, skateboarders, rollerskaters and scooter riders miles and miles of expansive paved surfaces to ride on like they own them. Regiments of two-wheeled marauders swoop in unison down the hills of Jerusalem on roads that on any other day would be jammed thick with cars. On the most solemn day of the year, the streets are filled with laughter and whoops of joy.

And once the kids have gone to bed, you can enjoy the rare opportunity to go for an evening stroll smack dab in the middle of a highway. Where else can you safely do that?
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