Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Bike fest or day of reflection?

Tzitzi-Zvi Gera  was a very dear friend. He was also an artist, sculptor, stage director and more, who died before his time.

He painted a group of works called “It wasn’t the Jews that kept Shabbat, but Shabbat which kept the Jews”

For a time, these paintings were hanging in Beit Hatfutzot. They depict Spanish Jews who were being persecuted and had to practice religion surreptitiously. Some of the scenes are of Jews in their homes taking the Shabbat meal in the cellar, with someone standing on the stairs listening out, just in case the inquisitors called. Then they would hastily hide the festive meal and replace with regular Spanish food.

This is what I feel on every Yom Kippur, especially since I am in Israel.

I cannot come to terms with the fact that Yom Kippur in Israel, has hardly any connection with the customs of Yom Kippur in the DIASPORA.

Also, that beyond the religious ritual, we have in our minds, the images of the 73 War.

The weird decision of whomever, that bicycles are OK since the roads are bereft of traffic for 24 hours, beats me!

As is our won’t in Israel, we like to enjoy and indulge, ourselves. So, for those who go to synagogue or even pray at home, this is what makes the day special. For adults, used to three meals a day its quite difficult, but not impossible. Sadly, for many there’s not enough food for 3 meals a day!

However, social services and commendable organisations such as “Leket” and “Table to Table” take care of that.

So, I love the peace of Yom Kippur. I am comfortable about not eating. In any case, at my advanced age I have promised my family that this year, I will drink every few hours. Its to hot to go out. In the tiny Shul outside my house the women have to be at the back or squeezed onto a narrow balcony.

However, I took my fast at the home of my closest family and next to their house, there’s a tiny but for me special, synagogue. I was able to sit at the window in their lounge and watch the Kol Nidrei service. Of course, I softly sang along too.

The children of the congregants were so sweet and quiet as they stood near to their fathers or their mothers, who were seemingly at the back of the gardens. Nevertheless. I did not hear them sing! I missed Beit Daniel the Reform Synagogue of which I am a member. In former years we would drive there and leave the car overnight. We would then, after the moving Kol Nidrei service, walk back home along the banks of the Hayarkon River. My thoughtful children assumed that this year it might be difficult for me. They were correct in thinking so.

It’s so quiet outside my home opposite Beit Frankfurt. The usual shouts of youngsters playing football, is not evident. I assume they too are on their bikes somewhere.

So, for me I can only hope that this younger generation will grow up with a true awareness of the significance of this day in all of its elements and not just a Bike-fest!

To all who fast, fast well and be written in the Book of life. GMAR HATIMA TOVA

About the Author
Zelda Harris first came to Israel 1949, aged 18. After living through the hardships of the nascent state, she returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.