JERUSALEM, Israel - By mid-afternoon on any Friday, traffic in Jerusalem has already thinned out as the last of the work force heads home to enjoy Shabbat with their families.
This year, the Tenth of Tishri on the Hebrew calendar, Yom Kippur -- the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish year -- coincides with Shabbat, which begins at 5 p.m.
For the next 25 hours, the country comes to a virtual standstill. There will not be a car on the road - outside of emergency vehicles - until after nightfall on Saturday.
In synagogues throughout Israel and abroad, the evening service will begin with the chanting of Kol Nidre, its mournful melody a fitting preparation for the day to afflict one's soul.
It is a prayer of repentance for all vows spoken and not fulfilled and for words spoken in haste, which may have hurt another person.
"And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and you shall afflict your souls and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord." (Lev. 23:26-27)
Click here to hear one version of Kol Nidre.
On Yom Kippur, most Jews observe a full 25-hour fast, neither eating nor drinking from before sunset until after dark the next day. No work whatsoever is done, and many spend the day praying in synagogue.
Judaism teaches that on this day, God seals the Book of Life with the names of those who will live throughout the coming year. A traditional greeting is g'mar chatima tova, "May you be inscribed for a good year."
Finally at nightfall, a long blast of the shofar - called tekiah gadola in Hebrew - brings the Day of Atonement to a close.
Israelis who believe Jesus (Yeshua) is the promised Jewish Messiah also observe Yom Kippur, asking the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to reveal His wondrous plan of salvation, as foretold by the Jewish prophets, to His covenant people.
"Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord.
"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
"No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34)