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How was Yom Kippur in Dizengoff Square?

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

1. It is hard to believe that the coronavirus was responsible for the beginning of a wonderful Yom Kippur tradition. When synagogues were closed due to the pandemic, Rosh Yehudi, a community outreach organization in Tel Aviv, held Yom Kippur services in Dizengoff Square. This year, those who previously participated were asking: "So that's it? We won't be praying where we did last year?" So it was decided to pray there again. More than two thousand people gathered in Dizengoff Square, and the famous fountain was even shut off for a day in order that everyone would be able to hear and follow the service. All the prayer books brought by the organizers were distributed and every plastic chair was taken; it was standing room only.
2. After the service was over, I was approached by Lena Rosovsky. Lena made aliyah from Russia when she was nine years old and today is a journalist for the Kan television network. "Holidays for me meant closed shutters. As a girl in Moscow, I remember that we closed the window shutters in order that people would not look in and see us celebrating the Jewish holidays. On Yom Kippur, my parents went to work even though they were fasting. It is so exciting for me to see Yom Kippur celebrated outside in the street. Here we don't have to close the shutters."
3. And then I met Anat. She told me that every time she goes by Dizengoff Square she gets nervous and her heart starts pounding. It's been that way ever since the night she had to run away following the Dizengoff terrorist attack this past April. Not far from where we spoke, Barak Lufan, Eytam Magini, and Tomer Morad had been murdered. "This is the first time I have been here that I can breathe normally and even feel happy," she said while pointing to the enormous crowd around us that was dressed in white, smiling and laughing.
4. A moment before Ne'ilah (the closing Yom Kippur prayer service), Rabbi Asaf Tabachnik spoke as follows: "We call this prayer Ne'ilah -- literally "locking" or closing the gates -- because it would appear that this is the end, that the holidays have come to a close, that they are behind us, and we are separating ourselves from them. But this is not correct. All of us reached a higher level on Yom Kippur. All of us are better. We now want to "lock up" who we have become and stay that way for the rest of the year.
Gmar chatima tova. May you have a good final sealing in the Book of Life.


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