Thousands gather at Western Wall ahead of Yom Kippur
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Thousands gather at Western Wall ahead of Yom Kippur

Worshipers crowd holy site as country prepares for holiest day on the Jewish calendar

  • Thousands pray for forgiveness (Selichot) at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on September 16, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
    Thousands pray for forgiveness (Selichot) at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on September 16, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
  • Thousands pray for forgivness (Selichot), at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on September 16, 2018. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90
    Thousands pray for forgivness (Selichot), at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on September 16, 2018. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90
  • Thousands pray for forgivness (Selichot), at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on September 16, 2018. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90
    Thousands pray for forgivness (Selichot), at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on September 16, 2018. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90
  • Jewish men pray for forgiveness (Selichot), at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem early on September 9, 2018. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
    Jewish men pray for forgiveness (Selichot), at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem early on September 9, 2018. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Thousands of worshipers flocked to the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday night and Tuesday morning for penitential prayers ahead of Yom Kippur, which begins Tuesday evening.

The prayers are traditionally said in the days leading up to the High Holidays. The service was the last before the Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, begins at sundown Tuesday. The Old City has been closed to traffic until the end of the holiday, at nightfall on Wednesday.

Driving during Yom Kippur is considered taboo, and many secular Israelis have turned the day into a biking holiday, taking advantage of the car-free roads.

Israelis ride their bicycles along the empty Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv during Yom Kippur on September 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

For religious Jews, the day is marked by fasting, abstinence and prayer over its 25 hours.

Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said additional police units have been deployed to the Old City for the holiday, which falls a day ahead of the Muslim holy day of Ashura.

The IDF announced that it would be sealing off the West Bank for 48 hours starting at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

The Erez crossing into Gaza has also been shuttered amid rising border tensions with the Palestinian enclave.

The army routinely seals off the West Bank and Gaza on Jewish holidays, and did so last week for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Illustrative: An Israeli soldier closes a gate at a checkpoint in the West Bank village of Yatta, near Hebron, on July 3, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The closures intended both to prevent terror attack attempts in Israel during the holiday period and to allow the Israeli security officials who operate the crossings to celebrate the festival.

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