Cycling Holiday

Maybe I should have fasted, but instead, I was rubbing my injured knee and wrist, picking up my bicycle from the road where I’d fallen.

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, one is supposed to reflect on one’s sins over the last year, to apologize to friends and family, to pray and to fast. And as it is the holiest of all Jewish holidays, it is widely respected in Israel, even by atheists. Trains, buses, and airplanes all stop running; shops and restaurants remain closed; even driving a car is taboo. And so, with the streets and highways empty and nothing on the radio or TV, it has become the perfect occasion for those of us who don’t take atonement all that seriously to go out for a bike ride.

Consider: there are hardly any bike lanes in Israel and the local drivers are not known for their patience. That’s how Yom Kippur has established itself as the unofficial holiday of cycling – one I participate in with great pleasure. I was riding through hilly Jerusalem, up and down, looping and weaving – until this rather punishing crash.

Next year, I think I’ll stay at home on Yom Kippur.

Avner Ofrath, Media