An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Day of Atonement or National Bike Day? Both!



Since we brought you a brilliant but depressing little bicycle story from Jerusalem on Rosh Hoshannah, we felt obligated to do the same on Yom Kippur. It turns out that in Israel, Yom Kippur -- the Day of Atonement, the highest holy day -- is also National Bike Day.


What do bicycles have to do with Yom Kippur?

If you haven't been in Israel for Yom Kippur in the last ten years or so, you might think this was an obscure riddle. Unfortunately not. What for traditional Jews is the holiest day of the year, the climax of the season of introspection, repentance and atonement, has an additional identity in contemporary Israel. It has become National Bicycle Day.

Out of respect for the sacred day and for their neighbors, Israeli Jews, however non-religious they may be, do not drive on Yom Kippur, from the start of the fast at sundown until its end at the next day's nightfall. The roads are eerily quiet, from local byways to major highways.


That means the roads are abandoned to bicycles, and secular Jews go riding in legion. Of course, most commentators -- being moral tongue-cluckers of the most intolerable stripe -- think this is a bad thing. But we'll go on the record here as being proudly contrarian: What better way to celebrate the most sacred holiday than on two wheels under your own power reflecting on all that's good and right with the world?

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