Yom Kippur = Carfree Day in Tel Aviv (A Photo Essay)

tel aviv yom kippur one
That’s right – Yom Kippur. A somber day of introspection in most of Israel, in mellow Tel Aviv the Day of Atonement is the closest thing to a day without cars in the Middle East. With all cars banished from the pavements for 25 hours, helmet-clad children take to the streets in their masses.

In contemporary Israel, where land is running out, asphalt is eating up the landscape, the air is thick with smog and gas isn’t getting any cheaper, a day like this is an absolute necessity, reminding us all that the car’s dominance of our living space is not a divinely-ordained decree, but a conscious decision that we have made - and that we can decide otherwise if we wish.
As local newspaper Haaretz notes, this year is the 100 year anniversary of the Model T, Henry Ford’s standardized, mass-produced automobile, which (much like today's Tata Nano) brought endless mobility within reach of the masses, and changed the streets of world cities beyond recognition.

tel aviv yom kippur ayalon

Kids cruising down the Ayalon, Tel Aviv's major traffic artery.

Yom Kippur, which begins in the evening, is very much a children's holiday in Tel Aviv, and one of the only days during the year when kids are completely free to independently explore the city on their bikes, skateboards and scooters.

tel aviv yom kippur ayalon city hall

An unusual quiet pervades the city - no honking, no tires squealing - and suddenly the air is clean. People take to the streets to casually stroll about. Absolutely nothing is open, neither shops nor restaurants (many people observe the traditional fast). Nothing is broadcast on television either.

tel aviv yom kippur ayalon dizengoff

The city center, which on most days feels cramped, crowded and stressful, suddenly feels spacious and open. This frenetic metropolis, the country's financial and cultural capital, acquires the feel of a remote village.

tel aviv yom kippur ayalon rokach

Of course, not every day can be like this in the city - people have to work, study and somehow get from place to place. However, the experience of reclaiming the city's public spaces certainly leaves an impression. Perhaps one day Tel Aviv will create a system of transport that makes the city feel like it's Yom Kippur every day...

tel aviv yom kippur boardwalk

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