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In Israel, a Solemn Yom Kippur Also Creates a Giant Playground

In Israel a Solemn Yom Kippur Also Creates a Giant


For more than a decade, Ms. Levy has cycled the 40 miles to Tel Aviv from her in-laws’ home just outside Jerusalem, along with Asaf Rockman, 39, her partner, and whichever friends feel like joining them. Mr. Rockman travels on roller-skates — an exhilarating if terrifying experience when plunging down the mountains outside Jerusalem toward the coastal plain outside Tel Aviv.

“It’s our tradition,” Ms. Levy said. “Every year, at this time of year, it’s what I do.”

Other bikers and skaters take slightly different approaches.

Tom Itzhaki, a hotel manager, usually tries much longer feats of endurance — this year, he completed a 190-mile journey through three cities in central Israel. Nir Ellinson, a coffee roaster, welcomed a more leisurely group of cyclists to his rural home. After a gentler ride from a nearby city, they shared a picnic of herring and cheese and read a short story together about Yom Kippur by S.Y. Agnon, an acclaimed Israeli novelist.

A group of skaters from Tel Aviv, the Tel Aviv Rollers, took the bus to Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoon, rolling back home on the empty roads once the fast began at sunset. To help them reduce speed on the mountain descent, two carried a large flag that they opened when speeding downhill, using it like a sail to brake.

“Real ecstasy,” said Alik Mintz, 66, a leader of the group, who usually makes the trip but stayed at home this year. “Nobody else in the world has this.”

For Palestinian citizens of Israel, who form about a fifth of the population, the day draws a spectrum of emotions, ranging from mild enjoyment to indifference and deep frustration. In Arab-majority cities, life continues almost as normal. But in mixed ones, Arab businesses must often shut.



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