yom kippur - Daniel Bar-On - September 18 2010
A youth cycles on Yom Kippur in Jerusalem, September 18, 2010. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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A little before 5 P.M. on Friday silence will fall on Israel, as the Yom Kippur fast begins.

Air traffic to and from Israel will halt from 1 P.M. on Friday to 9:30 P.M. on Saturday and the border crossings to Jordan and Gaza will close down. The weather forecast bodes well for fasters, with comfortable temperatures.

Public opinion surveys over the past few years show most Jews in Israel observe Yom Kippur. A survey conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 2009 found 26 percent of Israeli Jews who describe themselves as "secular" or "not religious" fast on Yom Kippur and 24 percent of them have attended prayers at a synagogue.

A number of organizations will be holding mass prayers, intended for people who do not frequent synagogues on a regular basis, as part of a custom developed in the past years.

The Tzohar Rabbis' organization is expecting about 40,000 worshippers to attend some 200 prayer sessions the group is organizing together with the Association of Community Centers for people who do not pray regularly.

The organization will also hold gatherings of religious and secular people in Petah Tikva, Bat Yam, Zichron Yaakov, Ra'anana and Haifa.

The Conservative and Reform communities will hold mass prayer sessions, open to the public at large, throughout the country.

United Hatzalah of Israel, an independent non-profit fully volunteer Emergency Medical Services (EMS ) Organization, has asked synagogue managers to make sure a telephone is handy in case of emergency and that a rescue personnel member is close by or among the worshippers.

Israel's airspace will close to traffic at 1 P.M. on Friday. Yom Kippur is the only day of the year in which air traffic to and from Israel halts completely. Ben Gurion Airport will reopen for international flights' landings on Saturday at 9:30 P.M. and take offs at 10:30 P.M.

Some 21,900 people are expected to pass through Ben Gurion Airport by midday on Friday, the Airport Authority said on Thursday. On Saturday only 2,830 passengers will pass through the airport on 17 flights.

Eilat and Sde Dov (Tel Aviv ) airports will also close down from 1 P.M. on Friday to 9:30 P.M. on Saturday. Haifa Airport will close down at 2 P.M. on Friday and open at 6:30 A.M. on Sunday.

The Taba border crossing and the Yitzhak Rabin and Jordan River border crossings to Jordan will shut down at noon on Friday and reopen on Saturday at 9 P.M. The Allenby terminal will cose at 11 A.M.

The weather on Friday and Saturday is expected to be pleasant. This morning it may even rain lightly in the northern and central regions. Saturday will be slightly warmer but not more humid, so the heat stress will not rise - good news for fasters.

The weather will change on Sunday as hot air comes in from Saudi Arabia, raising the temperatures perceptibly. Sunday and Monday will be warmer than usual for the season but on Monday afternoon cold air will enter the region from Italy. Temperatures will plunge by 4-7 degrees and it may rain.