JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli life came to a standstill on Wednesday as Jews marked the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the most solemn point on their calendar, at sundown.
Stores, businesses, public transportation and broadcasting shuts down in Israel for this high holiday, on which the observant fast from sundown on Wednesday until after sunset on Thursday and spend the day in prayer and repentance.
For many secular Israeli Jews, it's a day of quiet reflection and introspection spent with family. Streets and highways normally dominated by traffic empty and turn into bicycle-filled thoroughfares.
The Israeli police said in a statement that they have deployed additional forces around Jerusalem, with particular focus on the Old City and its holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, ahead of the holiday.
The Jewish High Holidays are taking place as Israel is in the grip of a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, with new daily cases at all-time highs since the start of the pandemic last year.
During the 2020 holidays, the country was under a full lockdown to curb infections. This year the Health Ministry recommended that prayers be held outdoors. Indoor worship is limited to 50 people unless the synagogue restricts entry to those certified as vaccinated, recovered, or those who test negative ahead of Yom Kippur.
Israel has has recorded over 1.1 million cases of coronavirus and 7,438 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year. It rolled out a COVID-19 booster shot campaign last month and already nearly 3 million Israelis have received a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.