Monday, October 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Israels

My orthodox brother lives in an Orthodox community in the Jerusalem side of the country. I like to tell him that I live in a Mediterranean country. I live not far from the sea. In my area there are all the restaurants and shopping and clubs and malls and bars and events you could hope to find living in a European style country at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. And he lives in the Middle East.

That split between Israels was crystallized for me this past Yom Kippur.

This was my second Yom Kippur in Israel. This was my brother's 21st.

The day after Yom Kippur I spoke with my brother and we talked about the holiday. I told him how interesting it is that the streets in my area are filled with people on bicycles. No cars drive on Yom Kippur. So the roads are absolutely filled with walkers and bikers. It is a real cultural event in Israel to bike ride on Yom Kippur. I taught my 8 year old how to ride her two wheeler and by Yom Kippur afternoon she was zipping down the streets with the crowd. My 5 year old son was happily racing her on his bike with training wheels.

And this event, which is ineffably linked to Yom Kippur in Israel for a huge chunk of the country, is virtually foreign to my brother's community. He's read about it in newspapers, but even if he weren't in shul all day, they don't bike around his neighborhood on Yom Kippur.

And I think that may be part of Israel's problem. When Israel presents herself to the world, the world sees the Israel of the Middle East, not the Israel of the Mediterranean .

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