Fasting in Israel

It’s hard to recall a Yom Kippur in Israel that did not include hearing someone fainting from dehydration.  Fasting in Israel can be a different experience from fasting in other countries. Even though this year Yom Kippur falls late on October 9th, and we hope for cooler weather, the dry, hot weather in Israel puts fasters at a higher risk of dehydration. Preparing for Yom Kippur a few days in advance is a sure way to fast safely on this High Holiday.

When a person fasts, everyday behavior results in a loss of fluid that is not being replaced in the course of the day.  When you talk, pray, breathe, sweat, and move, the body depletes its glycogen stores from muscles and the liver — that's the carbohydrate stores that provide quick energy. Then it starts breaking down protein within muscles and fat to produce energy. During that process, the body's metabolism slows down to conserve energy.  This also explains why people do not keep any weight off from a fast!  Meanwhile, hormonal reactions will fluctuate.

The genuine dangers of dehydration can even lead to low blood pressure and cardiac arrest!

This year, the weather is going to be in the mid-’90s. Therefore it is important to follow the next few steps carefully. Here are EMA Care guidelines for safe fasting in Israel:

  1. Starting 24 hours before the fast begins, drink plenty of liquids, so your body’s cells are well hydrated. Avoid caffeine/lemons/lemon juice. Lemons are a natural diuretic and will result in the loss of fluids more quickly.
  2. Eat pineapple at your final meal before the fast begins! Pineapple has the enzyme bromelain, which promotes good digestion. Furthermore, pineapple reduces the feeling of hunger.  It’s impossible to find fresh pineapple this time of year in Israel, but canned pineapple also works.
  3. Minimize physical exercise on Yom Kippur. This seems logical, but if you want to go to a synagogue that’s far from home, opt to walk in the evening hours.  Walking long distances, especially in the heat, is not recommended.
  4. Recognize the danger signs of dehydration. If you experience extreme weakness, heart palpitations, dizziness, or fainting, notify local doctors or medics so you can be examined and treated. If there is vomiting, fever, confusion, or chest pains, you must go to the emergency room.

EMA Care wishes you a meaningful Yom Kippur and a safe, fast day.  Remember - by taking care of your physical well-being, and you will be able to achieve this very holy day's spiritual goals.