Israel on Edge as Yom Kippur, Id al-Adha Overlap for First Time in More Than 30 Years

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Israel Police Special Patrol Unit vehicles stationed near the Western Wall compound. February 25, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Israeli police were on high alert Friday to avert possible clashes as Jews and Muslims prepare to observe their faith's major holidays of Yom Kippur and Id al-Adha, which overlap this year for the first time in more than three decades.

Reinforced police contingents had been deployed across Israel as a precaution against sectarian violence, said police spokeswoman Luba Samri.

Concerns were particularly high in the four Israeli cities with significant Muslim minorities: Jerusalem and Jaffa, as well as in Haifa and Acre.

In a related development, the military said it had closed off the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a general security measure, a common practice during major Jewish holidays.

On Yom Kippur, Israel comes to a virtual standstill. Businesses and airports shut down and TV and radio stations go silent. The holiday begins at sunset Friday and ends Saturday night.

Id al-Adha, a three-day holiday that starts Saturday, is an occasion for family celebrations and outings. It commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim - or Abraham as he is known in the Bible - to sacrifice his son in accordance with God's will, though in the end God provides him a sheep to sacrifice instead.

On the start of Id al-Adha, Muslims slaughter sheep, cattle and other livestock, and give part of the meat to the poor. Parents often buy new clothes for their children for the holiday.

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