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Yom Kippur in Israel

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Imagine walking home from Kol Nidre on Erev Yom Kippur and taking a seat in the middle of Michigan Avenue. Not in the middle of the sidewalk, but in the middle of the actual street. Imagine the utter chaos. However, this is not the case in Israel. The streets are completely empty with the exception of emergency vehicles. Children are biking and scootering and families are strolling their babies through the streets. I had always heard that the whole country shut down on Yom Kippur, but did not realize the magnitude of it until I got to experience it first hand. 

Although a significant percentage of the Israeli population is not Jewish (24%), and 41.4% are Secular Jews, everyone in Israel either observes or respects the observance of Yom Kippur. You could walk in the streets of Tel Aviv any day during the year without the idea of Judaism crossing your mind, but on Yom Kippur, you would be reminded of our strong, united Jewish community. On Yom Kippur, the streets are completely empty of cars, but full of respect, unity, courtesy, and overall peace. This special day gives us the opportunity to step back from our hectic day-to-day lives and take time for self-reflection. 

So on Erev Yom Kippur, in small groups, we walked from campus to one of the main streets in Hod Hasharon. And we took a seat right in the middle of a main intersection. At first, I was shocked. Sitting in the middle of the intersection with no caution or worry at all? I was flustered, but listened to my Israel Studies teacher anyway. After sitting there for a couple minutes, I really realized that no cars were going to pass. Nothing was going to interrupt that moment of tranquility. I started to tear up stunned by the fact that where I was standing, in that moment, is the land of the Jewish people. I realized how proud I am to be part of this community. To be part of a nation that can endure so much adversity but still unite as one.

Noa Maeir

Noa Maeir is a junior at Deerfield High School and is currently studying abroad at Alexander Muss High School in Israel for the fall semester. Back home at DHS, she plays field hockey, participates in the student-run talent show STUNTS, and is on the board of Key Club. Noa is active in the Jewish community with participation in BBYO, JUF: Voices Board, Moving Traditions, and traveled with JUF Springboard for Big Apple Adventure in 2019. Except for 2020 because of COVID-19, Noa has spent every summer at Camp Ramah Wisconsin since 2013 and served as an Amitei Ramah Teen Fellow. Noa also enjoys biking, spending time outdoors, and traveling.