Yom Kippur: Tel Aviv’s bike riding holiday

A day of forgiveness and introspection, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year. Jews fast for 26 hours and spend almost the entire day praying and meditating. Nearly all businesses close on this one day of the year. 

Jews who observe Yom Kippur fast for the entire day and attend synagogue for special prayers. People sometimes wear only white clothing and no leather at all.

All restaurants, bars, and shops are closed this holiday. Public transportation is unavailable.

One of the most beneficial aspects of Yom Kippur in Israel is that it is the only day of the year when there are no cars on major roads.

Even though driving is technically still legal on Yom Kippur, most Israelis abstain from driving unless it’s an emergency. 

However, calling for an ambulance or police escort is still considered the most respectful and safest way to arrive. The highways become a makeshift playground for children and families walking and riding along them on Yom Kippur. This makes driving or riding a car or motorcycle more dangerous than walking.

Yom Kippur riders are primarily children, but the practice also seems to be gaining popularity among secular adults. Jewish People Policy Institute researchers found that 43% of Israeli children ride bikes on Yom Kippur. This is compared to 7% of Israeli adults. However, they estimate that these numbers will rise as time goes by.