Yom Kippur in Israel is a unique day! Alternately known as the Jewish the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is the most solemn and holy day of the Jewish calendar. Taking place every fall, ten days after Rosh Hashanah, it is a day in which Jewish people of all levels of religiousness, and Israel as a whole, comes to a halt. It is a fast day lasting 25 hours. The festival begins at sundown with what is known as Kol Nidre and ends the following evening.
In 2023, Yom Kippur begins at sundown on September 24th and ends the following evening on September 25th.
What’s Yom Kippur in Israel Like?
Yom Kippur in Israel is the one day when normal life across Israel stops. All businesses close, including all restaurants and places of leisure. All transportation stops. It’s the only day all year where Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s major airport, stops functioning, as does all public transport. Almost all private vehicles also stop so the roads become totally empty for the day, apart from the odd emergency vehicle and children and adults riding bikes!
It is not legally forbidden to drive on Yom Kippur, however almost all citizens (religious or secular) refrain from driving. There are virtually no cars on the road, therefore biking on Yom Kippur has become something of a tradition. Driving is incredibly dangerous because there are many kids and families who will bike on major roads in Israel. It’s one of the best days to explore big cities like Tel Aviv by bike, and a truly unique experience to travel Israel’s vast highways on two wheels.
What To Do in Israel on Yom Kippur as a Tourist
Like Shabbat, there is no public transport in Israel on Yom Kippur, nor are there museums or cultural sites that are possible to visit. Within Israeli cities, the best option is to walk, observe the varying ways Jews across society mark this day. It’s a special experience to observe the peace and unbelievable tranquility of a country where nobody is moving, no cars, and no noise, and observe a country where a large proportion of the population is fasting. Try visiting a local synagogue to see how Israelis practice this special day.
While Israel completely shuts down on Yom Kippur, it’s a great opportunity to make the most of your time in the Middle East by heading down to a guided tour of Jordan. This 3-Day Petra, Wadi Rum and Jordan Highlights Tour departs on Tuesday and allows travelers to spend the days of Yom Kippur in Jordan, and gets you back to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv in time for the weekend.
How To Get Food in Israel on Yom Kippur
Eating out during Yom Kippur in Israel can be slightly difficult as so much of the country is fasting. Almost all restaurants are closed for the fast day, and hotels and leisure services will have very limited staff around. It is highly unlikely that there will be fresh food or usual food service. Instead, it is likely that there will be a limited buffet of simple, pre-prepared food available to those guests who want it. Remember that many guests and tourists will also fast.
Since the cities of Israel shut down for the holiday, it’s a good idea to check into a hotel so you can be comfortable during the fast day.
The best option for tourists who aren’t staying in a hotel is to prepare for the fast day by purchasing food the day before from a supermarket or restaurant. Many sell great prepared food.
While it’s important to prepare in advance for Yom Kippur, ultimately, Yom Kippur in Israel is an incredibly unique and special experience.
Interested in multi-day private Jewish package tours for you and your family to celebrate the high holidays in style? Book today!
Be sure to check out our other September events to stay updated on all the thrilling things to do in Israel this month.