By: TOI Staff; timesofisrael.com

Roads and airwaves fall silent, but security and rescue services remain on high alert.

Israelis ride their bicycles on a car-free highway on Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv, Friday, Sept 29. 2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israel shut shut down on Friday for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

All flights in and out of Ben Gurion airport ceased at 1:35 p.m., while public transport gradually halted with buses and trains stopping their routes until after the fast day.

As sundown approached all local radio and television broadcasts gradually fell silent.

Yom Kippur begins Friday at sundown and ends Saturday night.

 

It is marked with a 25-hour fast and intense prayer by religious Jews, while more secular Israelis often use the day to ride bicycles on the country’s deserted highways.

Thousands of worshipers crowd the Western Wall in Jerusalem for traditional selihot prayers the day before Yom Kippur, October 10, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Security and rescue services, however, remain on high alert.

For the Magen David Adom Rescue service, Yom Kippur is one of the busiest days of the year with hundreds of extra medics, paramedics, ambulances and volunteers deployed across the country.

Most injuries over Yom Kippur come from accidents on the roads as tens of thousands of children and teens take advantage of the deserted streets to ride their bicycles. Other common Yom Kippur injuries are caused by parents leaving children unattended outside synagogues and, of course, dehydration and complications from fasting.

Israelis ride their bicycles on empty roads in Tel Aviv, on Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays. The photo was taken on October 3, 2014. (Danielle Shitrit/Flash 90)

However, the weather this year is expected to be relatively mild, with even some light rain expected in the north.

Meanwhile, the IDF imposed a closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday. The closure is expected to last until midnight on Saturday, “depending on a situational assessment,” the army said.

Israeli policeman stand guard as cement blocks are placed by Israeli security forces on a road linking the Arab East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina and West Jerusalem, on Oct. 11, 2016, ahead of Yom Kippur (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

The closure is a routine procedure during Israeli and Jewish holidays. However, in a less common move, the military also announced that Palestinian workers would be barred from entering Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a measure that is not normally taken during closures. The army said special permission may be granted in some cases.

This additional restriction is likely tied to a terror attack on Tuesday morning, in which a Palestinian gunman hid among a group of laborers waiting to enter the Har Adar settlement, outside Jerusalem. When he was called to stop, the terrorist opened fire with a handgun, killing three security officers and wounding a fourth.

In addition, the Jewish high holiday season, which began last week with Rosh Hashanah, is generally seen by defense officials as a time of increased tension in the region, when the risk of terror attacks is higher.

 


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