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

Concerns are greatest in cities with significant Muslim populations, as military closes off the West Bank and Gaza as a general security measure.

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.