Tourist Tip #330 / Prepping for Yom Kippur

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Yom Kippur eve arrives this Friday, just after 6 P.M. This is a good time to start thinking about where you will spend it.

For most Jews, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. For Israelis, it's the day you cannot shop or get about, however urgent your need might be.

On this holiest of days, Israel shuts down. Literally. Shops and kiosks close. The malls shut their doors. Public transportation grinds to an absolute halt and in the Jewish cities and towns, at least, private transportation does too. You can't call a cab, either.

To clarify the point, it is against the law to open for business on Yom Kippur, though in mixed towns – including Jaffa – the odd kiosk may brave the penalty and stay open.

It is not against the law to drive on this day, but it is not done. In Jewish areas, the only motorized vehicles you may see on the road once the holiday comes in are ambulances and police cars. It isn't unknown for radical ultra-Orthodox to throw rocks at these emergency vehicles, let alone at ordinary people who defy the convention and drive.

Self-propelled vehicles are another matter altogether. On Yom Kippur, with the roads free of vehicles, kids and adults alike race around on bicycles, skateboards and roller skates.

In short, dear tourist, you do want to start thinking where you're going to spend Yom Kippur, because wherever you are when the holiday sets in, that's where you're staying, at least until the end of the holiday, at 7.30 P.M. on Saturday. If you are fasting, well and good. If you don't plan to, you want to make sure you have food and drink because you will not be able to buy any – literally, it will be impossible. You might think about arranging for a bicycle or other form of fun non-motorized wheels for the kids. Tourist tip will elaborate on that and other Yom Kippur customs tomorrow.

Tel Aviv residents enjoying the deserted streets during Yom Kippur.Credit: Motti Kimche

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