Judaism / Personal / Travel

Atoning on a Highway

Dear Friend,

It’s as if in an instant the whole country went to sleep. There wasn’t a sound… No cars on the roads, no rumbling, screeching sounds of construction outside of our window, and even the dogs ceased their barking. It felt as if I could hear a pin drop in the center of the city as I looked out of my balcony at the car-less freeways of Tel Aviv just below. And so began the holiest day of the year in Judaism. A day like no other, where for 25 hours life as you know it breaks from routine to give one the chance for honest reflection, atonement, and forgiveness from our sins of the past year. Before the holiday began we had a big family feast in the hopes that we wouldn’t feel the pains of hunger too quickly into the 25 hour fast. We had salads, and pasta, and roast chicken with potatoes, vegetables, fish, and more. After the meal I needed the next 25 food free hours just to recover!

I wish I could have taken pictures for you, friend, but my words (and some images captured by less observant Israelis) will have to suffice. We mean serious business on Yom Kippur, and once 6:10 arrived the phones, computers, and ipads were turned off, various lights in the apartment were pre-lit and taped over with scotch tape so that we wouldn’t make the mistake of turning them off by habit, the food and drinks were put away, and Stephane went that extra mile and pre ripped our toilet paper (that was a bit much for me but we made it work!)

Because there is really not much to do outside of small talk, reading, and synagogue (or bike riding if you are less observant), Stephane, Michael, and I decided to do something that you really can only do if you are in Israel over Yom Kippur… We decided to take Jasper for a walk… ON THE FREEWAY! And not just on the freeway, but walking down the middle of the freeway going the wrong way! It was incredible! It might not sound like anything that amazing, but when you are walking down a 5 lane freeway that is normally busier than the 405 in LA, it’s a pretty exhilarating experience. Jasper loved it! And as fun as that was, I realized how not fun it is living on the 14th floor of a high rise with a dog who has to go out three times a day when you need to take a special elevator for Shabbat/holidays… One that stops at every…single…floor… But the wait wasn’t that bad when you have good company, and all the outings with the dog were very worth it!

Another view of my empty freeway

Another view of my empty freeway

The empty freeway blow my house

The empty freeway blow my house

When we returned home we all congregated on the balcony and made ourselves comfortable on the previously prepared fort/outside-bed that Stephane put together so we would all have a space outside where we could be together. I happened to snap a picture right before the holiday started, and Mr. Jasper LOVED this area because he could finally snuggle with everyone since he isn’t technically allowed on the beds or furniture (a rule that I love to break every chance I have the occasion).

Our kind of fort!

Our kind of fort!


After some reading and talking we managed to pass the time until midnight and then decided to head to bed. Despite a deep, desire to try and sleep the time away in the morning, I was up bright and early with Mr. Jasper for our morning walk. He didn’t have to fast so it was business as usual for him. I took him out without the leash since he is so well trained and there were no cars on the road to worry about, he played with some pups, did what he needed to do, and then it was back home for some… reading. I was sincerely jealous of Stephane at this point who was sleeping like a baby. Luckily by noon he was awake so I at least had someone to talk to since his brother, who is not obligated to fast since he is not Bar Mitzvah age yet, was eating and doing his own thing.

The next 6 hours passed by in a whirlwind of conversation, reflection, walking, hunger, and sleep, and by the time 6pm finally rolled around it was time to head out to our neighborhood synagogue, officially end the holiday, and hear the blowing of the Shofar. When we arrived to the beautiful temple Gloria and I went upstairs to the section for women and children, and Stephane and his brother went to join the congregation of praying men below. It was magical to see everyone praying the same prayers we have been praying for thousands of years, in our religions homeland, and I felt so emotionally overwhelmed in that very moment. When the Shofar was sounded I closed my eyes and thought about you, friend, and how proud you would be at the beautiful life Stephane and I are making for ourselves. In that moment I felt complete peace and happiness, and the pains of hunger suddenly faded away.

It was over. We had successfully made it through another day of atonement, and we couldn’t wait to get back home to the mountains of food we prepared before the holiday especially for the breaking of the fast (including a phenomenal homemade pizza). After we stuffed our face, I had just barely enough energy to take Jasper out for one more walk  before jumping in to bed and almost immediately falling into a deep sleep.

It was a beautiful holiday, and though I missed all of my family back in California, I had such a wonderful, meaning time with my family over here.

I miss you every second of every day, friend, and I love you always and forever!

Until we meet again <3,

Jordana Simone



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