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Yom Kippur in Jerusalem 2018

Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement,” is the holiest and most solemn day of the Jewish year, with an emphasis on atonement, repentance and forgiveness. Unlike many other Jewish holidays which are celebrated by eating seemingly endless amounts of food, Yom Kippur is observed with a 25-hour period of fasting – no food or drink – and synagogue services.

For tourists, Yom Kippur is an interesting experience. There are no radio or television broadcasts. There is no public transportation and all shops and businesses are closed. Instead of seeing it as an inconvenience of sorts, prepare in advance so you can take this extremely unique opportunity to watch an entire city – and such a bustling one at that – come to a complete standstill.

Yom Kippur in Jerusalem 2018

This year Yom Kippur begins on the eve of Tuesday, September 18 and ends at night on Wednesday, September 19. There aren’t any events on the day itself, but there’s a lot to experience in the days leading up to and around it.

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A few suggestions for Yom Kippur in Jerusalem

If you are in the city for Yom Kippur, take the opportunity to feel the city at a peaceful standstill with a holiness in the air. Here are some of our favorite ways to experience this special holiday…

Take a walk… wherever you want

Walk in the middle of the city’s main roads. Try to find one car driving (besides emergency vehicles) and watch as large numbers of children take advantage of the lack of cars by riding their bicycles along Jerusalem’s main thoroughfares.

Prayer services

Check out a synagogue, such as the famous Great Synagogue, or head to the Western Wall (the Kotel). Even if you aren’t familiar with the prayer services, it will be a wonderful experience. Please note though, you may need to stand at the back as synagogues are usually packed on the holiday.

Dress in white

If you have white clothing in your suitcase, it may be a fun experience to wear it. On Yom Kippur, the city becomes a “sea of white” as it is traditional to wear white clothing to symbolize the cleansing of ones sins on this day.

Photos by Enno Raschke