Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is considered by many to be the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. The Jewish High Holy Days begin with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and end ten days later with the conclusion of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur falls on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It is a legal holiday in Israel, an important thing to remember if you are visiting at this time. The airports and all shops are closed, and there are no television or radio broadcasts.
The Yom Kippur holiday is based around old purifying rituals carried out to cleanse the Temple in Jerusalem from any unintended ritual corruption occurring in the year past. The high priest, called Kohen Gadol, arrived at the Holy of Holies at the heart of the temple on the day of Yom Kippur. It was imperative he was physically and spiritually as pure as achievable; several rituals were implemented to ensure he did not carry any impurities within his own rituals into the Holy of Holies. Jewish people believe Yom Kippur to be a holiday revolving around repentance and atonement. It is a time when reconciliation should be sought between the people and also between individual Jews and God. Jewish religion also denotes this as the day when God decides the fate of each person for the coming year.
Yom Kippur is most often spent praying and fasting. The three essential elements of the day include; repentance (Teshuvah), prayer, and fasting. The Ten Days of Repentance fall during the ten days prior to Yom Kippur. This period is a time to request forgiveness from those offended to enter a new year with a fresh start. Yom Kippur is also the longest of any service in the Jewish year, starting on the eve before the actual day. On the day, the service begins in the morning and lasts until after sunset. Fasting begins an hour before the day and lasts for 25 hours, and is traditionally practiced by everyone, including girls over 12 and boys over 13 years of age, with no liquid or food consumed. Additional restrictions include no bathing, sexual relations, or wearing of leather. The leather ties in due to the taboo of wearing skin from an animal while asking mercy from God.