I am currently listening to the din of hammers and nails all around me as people fulfill their first mitzvah after Yom Kippur: building the sukkah. Beginning wednesday night, Jews all over will "dwell" in sukkah huts for seven days (that number is true both in Israel and in the Diaspora; It's the holiday that follows that's either one or two days). My flatmate just put up our sukkah in about five minutes; I'm quite impressed. I'm lucky to live on the top floor of a three story building that has a balcony. This means that I can eat at home instead of having to go to restaurants at the nearby Emek Refaim strip, each of which will have their own sukkah. But anyway it is quite loud.
Contrast this with last night. Last night had a palpable silence. We stepped out of Kol Nidre services at Kedem into that very same bustling street of Emek Refaim I just mentioned was silent. There was not a single car. Instead there was a mass of people in the middle of the street milling and perambulating. I have never experienced anything like standing in the middle of the street (where any other day I play a game of Human Frogger) Rachel Imenu having a half-hour conversation with a group of people. I'm not sure whether it is illegal to drive or people just don't see the point of driving on Yom Kippur, but the only motor vehicles that we saw were police cars on patrol. Even the ramzorim (traffic lights) were disabled for the holiday, flashing yellow for 24 hours. The only thing to dodge was the ofanayim, the many bicycles that many were riding in the pedestrian-filled streets. The closest thing I can compare this phenomenon to is perhaps, l'havdil, Halloween in a gated community. A bunch of people walking around, hanging out, with no care of automobiles.
As for Yom Kippur itself, it was preceded with a trip to the Kotel where I recited Psalms for a bit before joining an afternoon service. After leaving a petek (note) in the cracks of the indoor section of the wall I witnessded a man administering 39 lashes to another man (albeit quite lightly), apparently a pre-Yom Kippur tradition. I got back to my neighborhood at around 1 PM expecting to get my first meal of the day but practically everything was already closed. Wow these places close early before Shabbat/Yom Kippur! The only places I saw open were the treif McDonalds (and I would starve rather than eat there, though they were closed on Yom Kippur along with everything else in the country) and Falafel Adir which was about to close where I struck up a conversation with a Canadian Jew who had made Aliyah for the specific purpose of joining the Israeli Army.
Yom Kippur itself was wonderful and the fast was easy. I led musaf for a service that was considerably longer than usual (2 hours from beginning of Repetition to Chassidic Kaddish, though add 15 minutes for the Hineni and the Silent Amidah) and with way more new-age melodies, though I began the Avodah Temple Service (we did the Nusach Sephard edition) with Misirlou, a Greek-Jewish melody that was popularized as the theme song of Pulp Fiction. It was off-the-hook.
I'm going to go to sleep now as Sunday is a school day here. Oh, how I miss weekends...
Shavuah Tov and Shanah Tovah!