One day a year- Israel comes to a halt. Nobody drives, nobody works, no electrical appliances, no drinking or eating- for 24 hours. It’s called “Yom Kippur”, a religious day of fasting and begging forgiveness from god for our sins this past year.
For me and other Israeli atheists, yom kippur is a special day because it’s a chance to walk on the roads and do things you can’t normally. For instance, many people have bicycle races on the highways.
Being the trekking enthusiast that I am, I go on great walks. Last year for example, my wife and I walked 42 kilometers from our home near Tel Aviv almost all the way to Jerusalem- right on the highway.
This year I thought I’d do something special, so I invited friends to walk with me from the Mediterranean sea to lake kinneret- a weekend + yom kippur trek of 70 kilometers.
I knew only atheist friends would join me. Religious people not only fast, but spend the whole day praying in the synagogue. However the people who really get to me are those who are not religious – but follow only some of the rules because of what they call “tradition”.
These “traditional” types make up the majority of Israelis, people who don’t really know much about their religion, have not really ever read the bible- but treat it with reverence stating that it’s “important to pass on the tradition of ancestors”, which they usually know nothing about.
Our ancestors were indeed religious. They followed the rules of Judaism out of belief in Judaism- but these people today, don’t know the first thing about their religion. For them, if you keep kosher, try to observe the Sabbath and fast on yom kippur- then you’re a good Jew. They’ve completely emptied the doctrine of any meaning, and have reduced it to several arbitrary and meaningless actions- which make absolutely no sense when practiced without context.
They don’t know why they’re doing what they are doing. They have no chance in an argument with an atheist. They’ll say things like “but the bible says we have to keep kosher”- while being completely oblivious to the vast majority of the 613 bible commandments.
If there is a god- these are the people going straight to hell. The people who picked and chose the commandments they saw fit, the ones that didn’t get too much in the way of their day to day lives.
I have no doubt that this hypocritical way of life stems from ignorance, because i’m sure that if they were ever to start taking real interest in Judaism, they would either:
1. Learn about the bible- see how horrible it is, and how different it is from their chosen way of life.
2. Learn about the bible and decide to become religious, and stop playing pick and chose with the divine infinite wisdom.
I’m writing all this because I invited a good friend of mine to join me on the trip, and he suddenly announced that he’s fasting on yom kippur so he won’t be joining. He observes no other religious laws, he’s completely secular, and frankly I’m very disappointed in his intellect.