Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) in Jerusalem were busy preparing chickens to
perform the kapparot ritual ahead of Yom Kippur in Jerusalem's Mea
Kapparot is a custom in which people wave a chicken over their head
while reciting confessions of sins. The chicken is said to absorb all the sins and is then slaughtered and given as charity to a poor family transforming the sins into good deeds. In the cases where money is used, it is then donated to charity.
The kapparot ritual with chickens is performed by specific sects of Orthodoxy, whereas more moderate Orthodox Jews usually opt for money. Some secular Jews also take part in the ceremony, out of either tradition or for the experience, and tourists and non-Jews come along for the spectacle.
Many, however, are opposed to this ritual. In years gone by, animal rights activists have turned up and protested in rage at places where the ritual is performed. Activists demand that money be used instead of chickens. Last year, around 2,000 Israelis in Tel Aviv signed petitions demanding the banning of the public sacrifice of chickens.
As a result of pressure from activists, this year the Jerusalem municipality has designated specific areas where the chicken slaughter can be performed and only under strict veterinary supervision. These venues include the Etz Chaim Yeshiva Courtyard, the old Beit Yaakov school courtyard in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood, Mosiof Street in the Bucharian Quarter, Shmuel Hanavi Street and Chevrat Mishnayot Street in Mea Shearim.
Though this ritual can be performed anytime between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the majority of people perform this ceremony on the day preceding Yom Kippur. Kapparot stalls have been open from 7 a.m. Thursday and will remain open all night until 11 a.m. Friday. “There is a frenetic vibe on the streets before Yom Kippur. Witnessing the ancient ritual of kapparot rounds it all off,” says a passer-by. “Not only is the scene before me unforgettable but the stench too. Don’t forget your nose plugs at home”.
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