Considered the holiest day in Judaism, Yom Kippur is a very special day in the city of Jerusalem. As religious Jews, wearing white clothing, head to pray at synagogues and at the Western Wall, the streets are filled with pedestrians and bike-riders, with no cars in sight.

 

Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a religious fast day which is dedicated to prayers, meditation and contemplation of one's sins, as well as accepting resolutions to better their own future. It is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, and is celebrated throughout the world by Jews of every persuasion.

But nowhere in the world is Yom Kippur felt more than in the Holy City of Jerusalem. While Jewish residents of the city flock to prayers at the city's thousands of synagogues and at the Western Wall Plaza, even the city's secular and non-Jewish residents feel the special atmosphere of the day. A long standing tradition, all residents of the city refrain from using their cars on Yom Kippur, and the empty streets are quickly filled with playing children, bicycles, rollerblades and pedestrians.

The religious significance of Yom Kippur is dictated in the Jewish bible, the Torah. Jewish believers are instructed to fast, atone for their sins and pray. During the days of the Holy Temple, Jews would flock to the Temple Mount to offer sacrifices and watch as the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies. After the destruction of the Temple, these prayers were conducted in synagogues throughout the world, and the tradition has lived on for thousands of years.

The Yom Kippur holiday is celebrated on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrey, the first month of the Jewish years. It comes one week after the New Year's celebrations, and is the final chance for atonement for the sins of the previous year. This day is taken under serious consideration, and many believers will spend the entire day in their synagogues.

The Old City and Jewish Quarter are also particularly special on this day. With businesses closed, the streets are filled with people on their way to and from the Western Wall. The traditional holiday dresses and suits are replaced by white clothing, symbolizing purity. Hordes of white-clad believers walking to and from the Western Wall and filling the plaza in front of it serve as a breathtaking image, moving even for those who are not part of the Jewish faith.

In other parts of the city, the religious and secular mix on the car-less streets, some heading to their prayers while others enjoy the day of rest, quiet and the ability to walk and ride in the empty streets. Religious and secular Jerusalem residents have long respected one another's beliefs, and Yom Kippur is a prime example of this coexistence.

With a spiritual holiness that can be seen, felt and heard, Yom Kippur in Jerusalem is a magnificent time to watch the city transform from bustling modern city to a mirror of its holy past.