October 9, 2011

Yom Kippur

For my non-Jewish audience, this weekend was Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)- the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. The most detailed description of observance of Yom Kippur is in Leviticus 16- which happens to be the chapter at the mid-point of the Torah, which shows the centrality of this holiday in Jewish religious life (and yes, I did go through some of my old notes from college to re-learn this stuff...) When I try explain it to my non-Jewish friends I usually compare Yom Kippur to Christmas for Christians- not in terms of what the holiday IS but in that even people who aren't particularly observant in everyday life tend to observe this holiday. Jews traditionally observe Yom Kippur with a 25-hour period of fasting and prayer, spending most of the day in synagogue services. In Israel on Yom Kippur everything shuts down. Literally. There is no public transportation, no cars on the roads, and many people don't even use electricity. People (generally) dress in white, in an effort to make themselves as akin to angels as possible- they are, after all, fasting and praying for the Lord to seal their names into the Book of Life for the coming year.

The holiday lasted from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and on Friday night I went for a walk in Jerusalem (where I was staying for the weekend). What I found was hundreds of people out walking in the streets- cause they could. There were tons of kids out riding their bikes around in the abandoned streets and every once in awhile I'd even see someone just laying down in the middle of an intersection.

It was kind of eerie, and really cool. There was a palpable current of joy in the air, and I felt so fortunate to be in Jerusalem on such a special evening.

 I was invited to spend Yom Kippur in Jerusalem at the Applbaum's (friends of mine from The David Project). Ari and Na'ama have twin 2.5 year old boys, and this year Na'ama was in the States for work, so Ari was in need of some help caring for them so he could observe the holiday. I was more than happy to oblige. People kept telling me that I would move over here and be smitten by the handsome Israeli boys....

They weren't kidding. Look at those faces! I ate those faces for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their names are Yuval and Roni, and it did not take long for me to fall head-over-heels. Yuval (bottom right) is sensitive, a little moody, but generally easy going and gentle. Roni (bottom left) is higher-octane, mischievous, and a total sweet-talker. Both of them had me wrapped around their little fingers- they're so sweet, terribly smart, and had me in stitches all weekend.

One of my favorite things to do when one of them seemed like he was headed down the tantrum-path (where one goes, so goes the other) was to yell out "belly bump!" cause this would happen:

I'm so into them.

So, basically I had the best weekend ever. I got to spend the holiest day of the Jewish calendar in the holiest city in the Jewish faith, and I fell in love with two of the cutest kids mine eyes have ever seen. Winning.

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