Yom Kippur in Israel is nothing I had ever experienced before. I have always found Yom Kippur to be a very spiritual holiday, but being in Israel for one of the holiest days of the year left me in awe.
Yom Kippur began Tuesday at Sundown (5:11, to be exact), so leading up to that day everyone was trying to do their last minute food shopping for break the fast, as well as last minute eating. I went down to the Co-Op (the corner grocery store by our apartment) with Aleah, Sabrina and Rebecca to buy some items for our ITF break fast. While there, Aleah and I found the baking aisle, and decided to use a box recipe and make chocolate balls (similar to cake pops, I guess). We realized while making them, that there was no way that the instructions we followed were going to hold formed balls, so we did some experimenting and added some butter and milk to the recipe, and it worked! We also bought some fun colored sprinkles to dip them in, and they were in the freezer ready to go before 5:11!
Also, a little bit before the fast began, while we were all eating our last meals, we decided it would be cool to turn on the TV and see the switch being made from broadcasted shows to getting blacked out. In Israel, EVERYTHING shuts down. The radio and TV stations go dark, no one drives, and no stores are open. Well, the TV stations were already blacked out, but it was weird finding one channel that was airing stuff (turns out it was a children's channel based in Asia). Another thing is that everyone wears white. It might not be all white, but mostly everyone you see walking around will have some white on to symbolize purity. It's very unique to see this complete change occur.
5:11 came, and the fast begun. Around 6:00, Aleah, Sabrina and I decided we wanted to go on a walk and see what it was like when everything shut down. Let me just say I was blown away. The only cars you see driving in the road are emergency vehicles. Kids were everywhere riding their bikes, scooters, and other cool toy cars I wish I had. Instead of the streets being filled with cars, they were filled with people. It was a really cool thing to experience. I also didn't realize how many kids lived in Rehovot, so that was shocking to me. I guess it does make sense though, since we are helping out so many schools this year. It was really cool to sit on Herzl and just watch everyone on the streets.
We eventually made our way back to the apartment, and when we got back were told that some of the Israelis were going to be on Herzl around 9:20 and wanted us to meet them there. I was definitely down to do the walk again, so around 9:00 we gathered a huge group (pretty much everyone who was in town for the holiday) and walked over to Herzl. I was still expecting all the children out in the streets, but you could see they were slowly going to bed, and now the streets were filling up with teenagers and young adults like us. Herzl was even more packed with people our age. We got to one of the bars, and just sat in the middle of the road for a while. It's not every day you can say you sat in the middle of a main road of the city you live in, without having to worry about cars coming by. Mostly everyone had their white shirts or clothes on, which was also an awesome sight to see. Eventually, Sylvie and I decided to split from the group and go on a walk down towards the mall, because while sitting around and talking is fun and all, I definitely wanted to talk advantage of this. When we walked back to the group, a few people were still there, and eventually Sylvie, Jilli and I made our way back home. We got back, and our apartment was watching Jungle Book, but I am not a fan of that movie (sorry, don't hate me!) and settled in my room, reading my book. It's been awesome having all this time to read - I finished the book I was reading (The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway), and am close to being halfway done with my new book (One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf).
On Wednesday, I woke up briefly at 8:30 in the morning, but was able to get myself back to bed until around 11:00 or so, which was definitely a treat. I read a lot, and lounged around missing food. Around 2:45, a group of us went over to the local community center, which was holding Yom Kippur services. It was definitely nothing like services at Temple Isaiah. I knew it was an orthodox service, so the men and women were separated by a mechitza, which is a division in between the room to separate the two genders. I did like the fact that the Torah was passed through the women, and not just the men. It was very hard to follow along, since there was not a single word in English in the prayer book, but I'm glad I was able to have that experience. I stayed for around an hour, and then walked back with Sylvie, since we wanted to work on some final cooking before break the fast at our apartment. We sautéed eggplant and onions, and roasted some potatoes. Soon enough, it was 6:07, the apartment was home, and we all had food in our mouths. We hosted the group break the fast, and had a delicious meal at 6:30 with lots of salads, bagels, tahini, veggies, and desserts. After the break fast, a bunch of people were going to watch a movie, but I needed to get out and move around after sitting around so much - so Sabrina, Jonah and I took a walk down Begin up to the Metro Mall. We had smoothies at Lawnder's (my new fave), and had some "real talk" before making the walk back up Herzl. It was really weird, because I kept wanting to walk in the middle of the street, but by 6:07 the cars were back on the road.
We have a really chill week coming up. Sukkot starts on Sunday, and of course I have Shabbat off starting tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. I'm still not sure what my plans are, but hopefully it will involve seeing friends from camp or spending time with my friends here. Either way, I'm feeling rejuvenated after Yom Kippur. I had a rough day before Yom Kippur, but after spending the past 25 hours reflecting and reminding myself on why I am here in Israel, I'm excited for the time to come. Plus, why wouldn't I be excited about more time off to explore this great country?
Laila tov readers, and hope everyone had a meaningful Yom Kippur!