Yom Kippur in Israel

We recently welcomed the Jewish New Year 5774 and fasted during Yom Kippur like many of our brothers and sisters around the world. But have you ever wondered what proportion of the Jewish population of Israel actually fasts during Yom Kippur?

About 10 years ago, when we lived in Israel, to our surprise and disappointment we had found out that for many Israelis Yom Kippur had become a day for family cycling. Many Israeli families had decided to take advantage of the near empty streets to go for a day of family cycling without the risks posed by the mayhem of every day Israeli traffic.

With this in mind, I was not expecting Yom Kippur observance to be particularly high amongst the Israeli Jews. I was pleasantly surprised when I found a recent survey conducted by BINA, a Tel-Aviv based organisation for promoting Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture, which shows that most Israelis abstain from eating on Yom Kippur.

The survey shows that 73% of the Israeli Jews fast on Yom Kippur, which is significantly higher than I had expected. Of those who fast,  51% said they do so for ‘religious’ reasons, 22% ‘out of respect for tradition’, 14% ‘out of solidarity with the Jewish people’, and the rest for health reasons or as a challenge.

Further analysis of the results shows that:

  • Among the religious Jews over 95% fast, whereas amongst the secular Jews the percentage is around 47%,
  • Younger Israelis are more likely to fast than older Israelis,
  • People with academic degrees are less likely to fast than those with high school or lesser qualifications and
  • People in the lower income groups are more likely to fast than those with an average or high income.

I then came across another news article which stated that on Yom Kippur, which this year happened to be on Saturday, Magen David Adom paramedics tended to well over 300 people – 130 who fainted due to fasting and 207 who sustained injuries from cycling related accidents. It goes to show that on Yom Kippur it is 37% safer to fast than to cycle.

Ayalon on Yom Kippur

I wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year.

M. Ozdamar

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