Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement - is Israeli cycling's biggest day of the year. People stay close to home and don't tend to drive. Many now cycle, reports the Ha'aretz newspaper.
"Cycling became fashionable in the mid-1990s and is now a full-fledged sport that has been developing at an impressive rate, at both the amateur and competitive levels," said teacher Itzik Hoffman, moderator on a Hebrew-language bicycle forum.
"On weekends, one can now see not just large groups of young men, but also couples, families with children and older couples aged 50 and over, all out for a ride. Anyone seeing this for the first time simply cannot believe the immense popularity of the sport."
A study from Business Data Israel lists bicycle sales of 200 000 in 2004, 25 percent higher than 2002. Bicycle sales rose by 150 percent in the month preceding Yom Kippur. A survey conducted by the Geocartography Institute for the Rosen & Meents bicycle chainstore found that more than 110 000 families planned to buy bicycles before Yom Kippur.
Adi Frumkin, head of business development at the Matzman-Merutz bicycle chainstore told Ha'aretz:
"Fitness club memberships are perceived as a major expense, swimming is boring and walking is slow, while cycling is fun. Women are coming out of the spinning rooms and going for nature rides."
Israel has an extensive network of off-road nature trails for hiking and cycling. Details on these can be found in Quarto's 'Classic Mountain Bike Routes of the World'. Purely coincidentally, the Israel and Lebanon routes in this coffee-table book are by Carlton Reid, editor of BikeBiz.com.