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article imageThe Hazards of Yom Kippur in Israel

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By Darren Weir     Sep 26, 2012 in Religion
Yom Kippur is the high holiday for Jews around the world. In Israel, it's a day when everything shuts down; every school, business, and government office closes, there's no public transportation and nobody drives. But it also comes with its own hazards.
For Jews, Yom Kippur is a day of reflection, a time to look back at the past year, atone for any sins or for hurting others, physically and emotionally. A recent poll found that 82% of Jewish Israelis would pray or go through a personal introspection, 64% would also take part in the ritual fast; no food or fluids for 25 hours.
Even non-Jews observe the holiday, most Christians and Muslims respect the traditions and don't drive or cook fragrant food. If you are not planning to take part in the silent introspection, there's not much you can do. Movie theatres and other entertainment venues are closed and even all TV channels are off the air, both Israeli and cable channels from overseas. Still 10% of Israelis admit they would watch movies at home over the holiday. It's a day like nothing I have experienced growing up in North America. The country completely closes it's airspace to planes, shuts down railways and buses and locks the border crossings during this solemn holiday.You won't see people smoking in public, talking on cellphones or even taking photos, all are frowned upon during Yom Kippur. Because there are virtually no cars on the streets, people head out on foot, taking over the roads by strolling with family and friends and with children racing up and down the streets on bicycles, in-line skates and skateboards. The day is also unofficially known as "Bike Holiday." It is very eerie to not hear the sound of traffic, honking horns or loud music.
But it seems that the day is not without it's hazards. The Jerusalem Post reports, paramedics treated more than 23-hundred people across the country. While the sick, the elderly and children are exempt from having to take part in the fast, 108 people fainted while observing the tradition, including 9 people who required CPR. One of the biggest problems during the holiday though are bicycle accidents, and this year 264 kids were treated for injuries. Despite most vehicles staying off the roads, there were still 13 traffic accidents across the country, much lower than the usual rate of crashes. On the positive side though, 145 pregnant women went into labour over the holiday, and paramedics delivered 5 babies.
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