Tourist Tip #333 / Bike Rentals (Or Lack Thereof) in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur

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If you haven’t been to Israel on Yom Kippur, you may be surprised to learn that many Israelis take advantage of the quiet – and the absence of vehicular traffic – to go for long walks or bike rides around their neighborhoods, in local parks or along the beachfront. Given that Yom Kippur traffic is generally restricted to emergency vehicles, Israelis even take their blades and bikes to highways like the Ayalon freeway.

For those of you who will be in Tel Aviv for the Day of Atonement and are tempted to join the penitent fun, don’t count on the city’s bike-sharing program Tel-O-Fun to hook you up with wheels. The Tel Aviv municipality is suspending the bike-rental service over Yom Kippur, during which commerce is forbidden. The only ones allowed to use the Tel-O-Fun bicycles over the holiday are those with annual subscriptions.

If, by chance you fall into that category, you can rent a Tel-O-Fun bike on Yom Kippur eve (September 13), between 11 A.M. and 3 P.M. and hang onto it over the duration of the holiday. If you rent a bicycle outside of these very specific times you will be charged extra. And you must return the rental no later than 12:59 A.M. the following night (technically September 15), once the holiday is over.

The renter alone is responsible for safeguarding the bike during that time – and you will be charged a (probably not so small) fee if the bike gets lost or stolen.

Average Joes who want to rent a bike but don’t have an annual subscription will have to wait until 8 P.M. Saturday night when regular Tel-O-Fun service is restored – but by then the two-wheeled Yom Kippur jaunts are mostly over.

If you luck out and manage to score a bike from a family member, friend or acquaintance, it would be a courtesy to respect some unwritten rules for the holiday: Don’t blare music from your cellphone or any other gadgets. If you plan on eating along the way, be mindful of those around you who may be fasting. Don’t just chow down in the middle of the street; instead, find a quiet spot, preferably out of most people’s view, and have your meal or snack. Then ride out the rest of the holiday, perhaps reflect on the past and coming years and hope you’ve been inscribed in the book of life.

A Tel-O-Fun bike rental station in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.Credit: Alon Ron
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai at the launch of the Tel-O-Fun bicycle rental service last year.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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