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author biography
Judy Lash Balint is an award-winning Jerusalem-based journalist, writer and author of Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times.
Ms. Balint has written for the N.Y Post, Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz – Magazine Section, and numerous US newspaper, magazines, journals and US Jewish weeklies. She is a contributor to the Fodors Guide to Israel
In 2003 Ms. Balint won the Mosaic Award presented by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism for Excellence in Feature Writing about Israeli Peoplehood, Culture and Society. She was awarded second place in the 2003 Jerusalem Foundation Excellence in Jerusalem Reporting Award and has been a featured guest on CNN USA and CNN International.
She is the author of Jerusalem Diaries II: What’s Really Happening in Israel

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Jewish Bloggers of the World Unite!
Yearning to return
Heroes, Then and Now
Inside Sur Bahir
My Jerusalem Bus Line
A Jerusalem Shavuot
They Would Have Been There…
Jewish Activism is NOT Dead!
Memorial Day and Israel’s 60th
Anticipation…
Those Pesky Passover Middle Days
You`ll Know It’s Passover in Israel Because…
The Myth of Rachel Corrie
The study hall at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem
Are We Passing Out the Candy Yet?
Winter Time Observations
In Tense Times
Comic Relief, Israel Style
Lights in Action
Jerusalem — On the Brink of Partition?



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Day of No Traffic Lights
Filed under Judaism, Opinion Editorials, Israeli society – on Friday, October 10, 2008 – By: Balint, Judy Lash

I know most Jews call Yom Kippur by other names, but here in Jerusalem, it’s the Day of No Traffic Lights. There are no traffic lights because there’s no traffic on Yom Kippur in Jerusalem. The city just turns them off for 25 hours. Imagine—an entire country without any motor vehicle traffic apart from emergency vehicles and army patrol jeeps. The quiet is absolutely stunning. Starting from sundown on erev Yom Kippur, 25 hours of blissful peace and quiet. Think of the negative carbon footprint impact! No traffic; radio and TV stations are silent; no airplanes overhead—you can actually hear the wind in the trees and every bird’s song.
 
Pedestrians share the road with bicycles ridden by hundreds of secular Israelis who savor the day as a safe opportunity to try out their biking skills with no annoying traffic lights or crazy Israeli drivers. But the overwhelming sense is of a people taking a complete day to evaluate and perhaps change their lives.
 
Walking to Kol Nidre, the streets are thronged with people clad in white, to signify purity and a withdrawal for one day from the vanities of our usual fancy clothing.
 
Every synagogue is packed to overflowing, and several hundred community centers around the country also offer Yom Kippur services, with emphasis on discussion and openness for those who might never have stepped foot in a synagogue.
 
After the Kol Nidre prayers are over, it’s as if the entire city spills out onto the streets. Strolling along in the middle of roads usually clogged with cars is the main pastime as people saunter off home, greeting friends along the way.
 
This Yom Kippur, the weather was a perfect 75 degrees. Last year, I spent the closing Neilah service of Yom Kippur at a shul just down the street, as it was too hot to trek back down to my regular shul after the break.
 
As I took a seat at the very back of that neighborhood shul, an elderly woman was wheeled in by her son who parked her wheelchair just in front of me. Her fingers were severely misshapen and she wore thick glasses. She carefully unfolded a copy of the Amidah part of the Neilah service that had been blown up on large sheets of paper. Next, she carefully extracted a magnifying glass from a little box and oblivious to the Chazan, proceeded to painstakingly slide the magnifying glass over every word of the prayers. She completed her reading just as the congregation came to the closing verses and she joined in the fervent singing of ‘Next year in a Rebuilt Jerusalem.’ She even managed to clap as the men danced in a lively circle to express joy at having been given another opportunity to make amends before God.
 
After the piercing tones of the shofar marked the conclusion of another Day of No Traffic Lights and the congregation clamored out of the doors to get home for refreshments, half a dozen secular people from the neighborhood were just arriving, hoping to hear the shofar. This particular shul finished a few minutes before the appointed time for the end of the holiday, so the neighbors were disappointed to have missed it, but another group was still praying in another part of the building, and the outsiders quickly made their way down the stairs to take in the tradition.
 
Before I even made it home, a few cars were already on the streets and the Day of No Traffic Lights was no more.

The opinions and views articulated by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Israel e News.

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