Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is Judaism’s holiest day of the year. But in Israel, this day when almost everything grinds to a halt is different than anywhere else in the world.
Nearly the whole country shuts down. Schools and businesses are closed, cultural and entertainment venues are closed, and public transport is stopped. People voluntarily refrain from driving unless there’s an emergency situation.
The feeling is truly otherworldly. And the quiet, traffic-free 25 hours are holy to both religious and secular citizens.
Many Israeli Jews, not just the Orthodox, refrain from eating or drinking, and concentrate on asking for forgiveness through prayer at synagogues of every denomination. At the Ne’ilah service, secular and religious Israelis flock to synagogues to hear the shofar (ram’s horn) blast marking the end of the fast.
For others, the empty highways and roads become an open play area for bicycles, roller blades, skateboards and pedestrians. People go cycling along roads otherwise off-limits.
On the evening of Yom Kippur, it is customary for neighbors to meet in the middle of the streets. It is not unusual to see those coming out of the synagogues striking up conversation with those on bikes.
Yom Kippur also marks a day of sorrow and memory for families who lost their loved ones in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. On the morning before the religious holiday comes in, visits are made to memorials around the country and to the graves of those who gave their lives to the State of Israel.
ISRAEL21c has selected these photos to give our readers a visual description of Yom Kippur in Israel.

An empty highway on Yom Kippur in Israel. (Eldad Carin/Shutterstock.com)
An empty highway on Yom Kippur in Israel. (Eldad Carin/Shutterstock.com)
The grave of a fallen Israeli soldier from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. (Michal Fattal/Flash90)
The grave of a fallen Israeli soldier from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. (Michal Fattal/Flash90)
Thousands gather for mass prayer for forgiveness (slichot) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the night before Yom Kippur. (Dror Garti/Flash90)
Thousands gather for mass prayer for forgiveness (slichot) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the night before Yom Kippur. (Dror Garti/Flash90)
A worker puts the finishing touches on a shofar at a factory in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A worker puts the finishing touches on a shofar at a factory in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra Orthodox men roll a Torah scroll in Mea Shearim a few hours before the start of Yom Kippur. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra Orthodox men roll a Torah scroll in Mea Shearim a few hours before the start of Yom Kippur. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israelis ride their bicycles on the empty streets of Jerusalem on Yom Kippur. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Israelis ride their bicycles on the empty streets of Jerusalem on Yom Kippur. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Yom Kippur prayers at a synagogue in Beit Shemesh. (Dror Garti/Flash90)
Yom Kippur prayers at a synagogue in Beit Shemesh. (Dror Garti/Flash90)
Bike shops in Israel are busiest in the run up to Yom Kippur. (Oren Nahshon/FLASH90)
Bike shops in Israel are busiest in the run up to Yom Kippur. (Oren Nahshon/FLASH90)
Skateboarders in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur. (Shutterstock.com)
Skateboarders in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur. (Shutterstock.com)
Animal rights protesters outside Mahane Yehuda Market gather to demonstrate against the killing of chickens as part of the Kaparot ritual, performed the day before Yom Kippur. Some believe that sins from the past year can be transferred to a chicken by reciting a blessing and waving the animal overhead. (Michal Fattal/Flash90)
Animal rights protesters outside Mahane Yehuda Market gather to demonstrate against the killing of chickens as part of the Kaparot ritual, performed the day before Yom Kippur. Some believe that sins from the past year can be transferred to a chicken by reciting a blessing and waving the animal overhead. (Michal Fattal/Flash90)