Heatwave, bikes and Jerusalem tensions: A wary Israel marks Yom Kippur

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Temperatures set to exceed 30ºC, West Bank and Gaza under closure, and rescue services on alert for annual scrapes as cyclists hit the deserted streets”
Israelis preparing to begin the 25-hour Yom Kippur fast were greeted Tuesday by a heatwave, with meteorologists warning that temperatures would rise further on Wednesday. Meanwhile, recent tensions in Jerusalem have resulted in a bolstered police presence in the capital and a complete closure in the Palestinian territories.

The highest temperatures are expected in Eilat and Beersheba, reaching 38 degrees Celsius. In Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, temperatures are expected to reach 34 degrees at their peak, and climb to 35 in Tiberias.

‎On Thursday, temperatures will drop slightly and humidity rise again, but it will continue to be hotter than the seasonal average.

Magen David Adom and other emergency health services are on alert for the holiday, during which some Israelis in risk groups, like pregnant women and elderly people, often suffer health issues related to the stringent fast, in which neither food nor liquids are allowed. Those at risk were advised to seek medical advice before fasting.

Rescue personnel were also anticipating the usual spate of grazes, bumps and bruises stemming from the unofficial Yom Kippur tradition of riding bikes through Israel’s deserted streets. An informal ban on driving is customarily observed across the country for the duration of the holiday.

‎On Wednesday, the Muslim Eid el Adha begins. The Muslim festival, which celebrates the Sacrifice of Isaac, is marked by feasts in which lamb meat is eaten and converges with the solemnity of the Jewish Yom Kippur fast for two or three years in a row every 33 years.

Israel police are on alert to quell any ‎friction that may erupt from the two holidays occurring at the same time, with checkpoints deployed in several mixed Jewish-Arab cities in the country. 

The West Bank and Gaza Strip are under full closure throughout the Jewish holiday, and police forces have been bolstered in Jerusalem and its surrounding areas, in the wake of days of clashes during last week’s Rosh Hashanah holiday.

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