Though I fasted every year with my family growing up, this Yom Kippur was the first time I had fasted in the five years I’d been living out of my parents’ home. I decided to participate because, well, I happen to be in Israel this year and that’s kind of what people do here…but more seriously, because I felt like now was the right time to use fasting for a day of meaningful self-reflection, and to make goals for the new year. I’m a little over a month into the program now, with nine more to go, and I want to keep a strong momentum going forward to learn, create, share, and make the best of my experience with my peers.
On Tuesday, we attended a holiday service at a local synagogue (there are many “local” synagogues, if you hadn’t guessed). The women and men sat separately, but the service itself was very casual, with children being the main readers and singers of the prayers.
On Friday night, after a pre-fast meal with a few other fellows, Rachel and I went back to the synagogue for Kol Nidre. We sat with the women in the balcony above, and the space became very crowded by the start of the service. We stayed for two hours, before we decided that making it halfway through was good and meaningful enough.
In the morning, my meaningful day of reflection started at the sloppy hour of 11am. Maybe that’s not so late for most people…see, I recall waking up at my usual 7am, getting up and walking around my empty, messy apartment, and then deciding to just go back to bed. Usually I don’t sleep more and get restless, but today I give my thanks to sleeping so little on Wednesday and Thursday night to make my extra four hours possible.
Finally awake and well-rested, I packed up my bag with my new drawing pad, brushes, watercolors, and sketchbooks, and set out on my bike. I rode slowly and carefully, knowing that I was not operating at 100%, but feeling fully capable of being out and about.
There are absolutely no cars on the roads on Yom Kippur, so children have taken over the streets on bicycles, roller blades, and these funny-looking swivel scooters. Other Ashdodians watch from shady spots nearby, and many, both young and old, promenade the streets dressed predominantly in white.
As I took my time navigating the smooth, wide roads and dodging the small children darting to and fro, I felt like I was part of some strange, child-driven apocalypse. It was not unpleasant at all, just eerie. Especially with the physical deprivations creating slightly different sensations and mental displacement, it felt a bit like a dream.
I ended up at a nearby park, where I laid out a sheet in the shade and splayed my arting supplies around me. In the next few hours, I drew carefree and lazily, feeling no rush to produce finished or remarkable pieces. I knew it would take me a while to feel comfortable working at length again, and focused more on experimenting with mark-making. Still, it felt good to be working in a more open and natural space, and alone. I often would get up to stretch in the sun, or take a few moments to lie on my back and listen to the masses of children and the very noisy, very odd bird calls from the trees above.
In the early evening, Sarah G, Rachel, Paul and I walked down to the beach, read poetry, reflected and shared goals for the new year. Then we walked back to my empty apartment and broke our fast.
I had quite a meal of grilled avocado sandwich, homemade pita chips, grapes, and leftover chickpea salad and Asian-grilled eggplant from our pre-fast meal. Oh and somehow tahini found it’s way in there on the chips, the sandwich, the eggplant…because, tahini.
With two of the larger ink drawings I made today, I finally started to set up an idea I had for hanging new artwork on my bedroom wall, kind of like a little studio. It helps me to have my drawings out, so I can continue processing them and working back into them. I hope that my clothesline(s) of art will also encourage me to have new ideas and make new art.