Haifa, generally speaking, is the most secular city in Israel. It is the only city where the buses (some of them) run on Saturdays, albeit with limited service. On Shabbat, although most stores are closed, the beaches are full and museums and other places are open. On the 2nd day of Rosh Hashana last week, most shops were closed, but there were some cafes open and there were cars on the street.

Yom Kippur is different. Yom Kippur in Haifa trumps Shabbat and every other holiday. Yom Kippur in Haifa is a cross between a snow day, Fire Island, and “The Day After”. All television and radio programming is suspended. There are no cars on the streets except for emergency vehicles (and we did see one guy on a motorcycle). Starting in the evening, children take over the streets and are out in full force on bikes, scooters, tricycles, and rollerblades. The playground was full at 9pm. The next morning, the children were out again and were traveling in packs, with very few adults around. Remember that main road that our neighborhood branches off of that we described as being unpleasant to walk down? Children filled the middle of the road the entire day. It was beautiful.

We went for a walk in the afternoon and passed a yeshiva where the davening was so loud that we heard it from the top of a hill in a park about 2 blocks away.

Here’s a question: if everyone enjoys children being safe and independent in the streets, and it is so culturally important that even the least observant enforce it, why is it limited to once/year? The priority of cars over people is universal, apparently.

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