Israel shuts down as Jews mark Yom Kippur

The religious holiday is one of a series of Jewish celebrations this month

Israeli airspace was closed and motorways largely deserted on Thursday as the country shut down to mark the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement.

Airports were shut ahead of the holiday starting on Wednesday evening. Aircraft were also banned from flying over Israel.

Jews observe the day-long holiday with prayers and fasting.

Israel marks the solemn occasion by silencing broadcasting, shutting businesses and halting public transport.

Cars are rarely used during Yom Kippur, freeing up the motorways for non-observant residents who cycle in large numbers around the country.

Israeli authorities also close the crossings with Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Police set up barriers between occupied East Jerusalem and the western part of the city, blocking drivers. Pedestrians are allowed through.

Some Palestinian-run buses continue to operate during the holiday in East Jerusalem, where businesses also open. Still, the streets are considerably quieter than usual.

Yom Kippur is one of a series of religious holidays and comes just days after Rosh Hashanah, when Jews celebrate the new year.

The festive season, which ends on September 29, comes amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

On Wednesday, Israel registered more than 9,600 new cases in a population of nine million.

Nearly 6 per cent of tests were positive, health ministry figures show.

The government has opted against a nationwide lockdown over the Jewish holidays. It has instead ordered residents to limit private gatherings, such as traditional family meals, to 50 people indoors, or 100 outdoors.

At synagogues hosting more than 50 people, worshippers are required to show a “green pass”, which proves vaccination, recovery or a recent negative test for coronavirus.

Israel has registered more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases and 7,452 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.

Updated: September 17th 2021, 3:51 AM