In case there is even one person out there who actually awaits these posts, I apologize for the delay. First there was the transition back to the Haifa Ulpan, after refusing to go back to the Nahariya Ulpan after the day I left in tears; then there were (and still are) holidays; and then I was (and still am) ill. I probably had a lower resistance to whatever was going around after having completed a 25+ hour fast, and the fact that I commute on the train everyday, where I expose myself to germs from hundreds of other travelers probably didn't help.
This is the first day I have been out of bed for awhile, but at least I am not missing Ulpan, as we are on Sukkot break. I hope to get better enough to travel to either Tiberius or Tzfat this week. If so, that will be a post with photos. Anyway, I had to get this post out of my head, and onto the screen, as it were. So, here it is: National Bike-Riding Day......
SUNDAY EVENING (just before dusk), SEPTEMBER 27: Imagine your typical (okay, let's go with stereotypical as that is more fun) American tourist in Israel. He is, of course, completely unfamiliar with Israeli holidays but he can't help but notice something is going on. Err.. actually it is more what he notices NOT going on. He has traveled from the city where he is staying, to a smaller town - just out sightseeing. He has done this before with no problem, but he begins to get worried when he notices many businesses are closing and the traffic is disappearing from the streets.
Soon our tourist realizes there are no buses, no sheruts (group taxis), and no individual taxis. There are always individual taxis - even on Shabbat. What could be going on? More importantly, how will he get back to his room? He notices a few people walking to synagogues, but not very many so he decides it cannot be any major religious holiday. Besides, they just had that New Year thingy about a week and a half ago, so he figures they wouldn't be having any other big holy days soon. No, it cannot be religious because there just aren't that many people going to the synagogues.
He has never seen anything like it. As he makes his way, walking, back to the big highway that runs through town he sees it is completely deserted! Eight lanes of empty macadam - but not for long. Soon people begin to come out of their homes and he cannot believe how quickly the streets are again filled - but not with motorized traffic. He comes to the conclusion it is National Bike-Riding Day.
Bike are everywhere; there are all shapes and sizes and most appear to be brand new. Most children are on bikes, but those without bikes are on roller-blades, skateboards, or tricycles. The parents are out watching the children, visiting, and having something to drink.
The synagogue folks make their way home, walking through the throng of bikes and other vehicles. He finds a park bench from which to watch and by the time it is 11 P.M. he decides he may actually have to walk back to his hotel room. On the way back he eventually sees a car and manages to catch a ride but cannot really communicate with the older driver who sounds as if he is speaking Russian. Our tourist decides the man must have attended school before English became required in the Israeli school system. Our tourist uses his limited Hebrew to thank the man when he gets out in front of his hotel.
The next day, Monday, he is surprised to again see many people out bike-riding, and very few cars on the streets. Again, businesses are closed, and many people are having picnic meals in the park. Some have picnic baskets attached to their bicycles and others pull their meal in a child's red wagon. Our tourist is in awe.
Being very health oriented and green-minded, he cannot wait to get home and tell his friends about this wonderful Israeli holiday that promotes exercise and an abstinence from vehicles that pollute the air with fossil fuels. As someone who tries to keep up on these sort of things he cannot believe he was unaware of the holiday's existence. He thinks it must be something relatively new, but on the other hand, the traditions seem to be well established, so maybe the the holiday is not new. When he gets back to the U.S. he plans to try to start something like this in his home state of California. He begins thinking of catchy names by which the new holiday could be called, and then momentarily wonders what the Israelis call their holiday.
He also noticed a few people going to synagogues again; then he remembered he heard somewhere that some Jews pray three times a day, every day. He decided some of these Jews were probably taking advantage of the bike-riding holiday to go to synagogue even if they did not always pray three times per day. He found himself thinking they were probably lazy and should be ashamed of themselves for not getting out and supporting this day that honors exercise and ecology. After all, they could pray anytime but how often does someone get a day off to exercise and show their support for ecology? What a modern, forward-thinking country, this Israel.
July 2016 NOTE: I posted this several years ago. At the time I thought everyone would "get it," but I have since learned that is not the case. So, for the record, there is no such thing as an Israeli National Bike Riding Day. This was a satirical post describing Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and a day of fasting. Israel is the Jewish state, nonetheless when in Israel on Yom Kippur one will see more secular than religious activity - primarily bike-riding and picnics.