Two Approaches: How Do Secular Israelis Relate To Yom Kippur?


JERUSALEM (VINnews) — If there is one day of the year which is almost impossible to reconstruct for secular people it would be Yom Kippur. While other festivals can be construed in different ways, with Purim seen as a time of carnivals and dressing up, Pesach as a time for extolling liberty and Shavuos as the harvest festival, Yom Kippur’s solemn demand for penitence and fasting cannot be projected in other ways. Even the most ardently secular Sephardim can be seen occasionally attending the Selichot prayers which take place nightly throughout the month and on Yom Kippur a huge majority of Israelis go to shul and complete the fast.

Thus it was almost natural that when the Betar Jerusalem soccer team played a match on Sunday against their rivals Hapoel Jerusalem, the predominantly Sefardic fans started singing Adon Haselichot at the top of their voices- which apparently worked wonders for the club, who defeated their rivals 3-0.

However not all secular Israelis are connected to their traditions and on the “secular forum” on Facebook, one Israeli complained about the “religious indoctrination” his son was subjected to in first grade, when he received a page in which the customs of Yom Kippur are described as “prayer, fasting, selichos and the meal before the fast” whereas the “main” custom of “riding a bike on Yom Kippur” did not exist. The forum warned that the message a child receives from this is that if he and his family do not pray and fast, they are acting improperly and are not doing what they are supposed to do. The forum also speaks glowingly of the “social, ecological and cultural beauty of Yom Kippur as a secular Israeli holiday.”

On the holiest day of the year, some people are searching to bring sanctity into their secular lives (even at football games) while others are searching to secularize Yom Kippur and marginalize the concepts of fasting,prayer and penitence. May all of Israel and all of the Jewish nation be granted a sweet and happy new year.


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