By: Anna Kos
I have never been a religious person but there is something about being in Israel over the holidays that just moves you.
Growing up, my parents kept a secular household but made sure that my brother and I knew the basics.
It is not because they didn’t want to be more traditional, but due to their upbringing in communist Poland – they didn’t know enough about the religious traditions to pass it on.
My brother eventually explored Judaism through the Reform movement and I went more down the Zionist path.
The days leading up to Yom Kippur, I found myself dreading the holiday. The country was going to come to a halt with everything being closed and ZERO transportation available.
When it was finally Erev Yom Kippur, I was pleasantly surprised with how much the holiday took over my soul.
After having dinner with one of my best friends and her family, we went outside so her kids could go for a bike ride. I did not expect to see hundreds of children on the street.
It was wild! It made me want to be a kid again.
Kids in Israel know that this is the one day in the year that they can do this so they take full advantage.
On my walk home I had to face-time my parents to show them everything that was going on.
My father got emotional and so did I. I know this image is not traditional, but it is the beauty of having a Jewish state. It is freedom to be Jewish.
While the kids were riding their bikes, you can see those leaving synagogue walking by. Jews of all backgrounds were observing the holiday.
The next day, I woke up early and joined my friend for a walk on the Ayalon (the highway). The roads were clear. Not a car in sight. All you could see and hear were other pedestrians and cyclists.
The air felt light. What 12 hours without any vehicles on the road can do for air quality, is remarkable.
I felt so at peace during this walk, words cannot describe. I have never felt so connected to my faith and G-d, as I did at this moment.
Near the end of Yom Kippur, my friend and I walked to the local synagogue to stand outside and hear the shofar. Dozens of other Tel Avivians were also outside for that exact reason.
People in the city may not be observant, and may not even fast but they care about the holiday.
If people don’t fast, you wouldn’t know it. No one would eat in public out of respect. If you were to try to turn on a TV in Israel during Yom Kippur, you would not be able to get a single channel.
The importance of this day is felt by all. When you walk the streets, you can see couches in the middle of the road where people sat and chatted with their neighbors.
I could go on.
Yom Kippur in Israel truly moves you beyond any words.
On this day, you feel a part of the community and a pure connection to the Jewish faith.
On this day, my soul felt like it was home. Israel is home.