As evening falls outside my window, the sounds of the world shift. The ocean-like sounds of cars and buses whooshing past disappear, and instead falls a silence so intense that it is hardly broken even by bird sounds. Little by little though, a new sound dominates the city streets of Israel. The sound of a myriad little bells and rings and children’s screams and laughter.
Gone are the motors, and instead the steady pump of legs is the only mode of transportation, whether the legs are pushing pedals, rolling on wheels or walking all on their own. It’s Yom Kipur, the day to atone all sins, and the most dramatic thing about it is the taboo that dominates the country. No cars will drive tonight, nor tomorrow until sunset. No cars but ambulances and slow-moving police cars.
It is no wonder then that children and their bicycles rule the streets on this day. While the people who fast stay at home and guard their mouths from touching food or drink, the young – who aren’t actually required to fast by Jewish tradition until they’re thirteen – and the secular play in the empty streets to their hearts’ content.