Yom Kippur is the highest Jewish holiday. The Hebrew word "jom" means day and "kippur" means atonement. So Yom Kippur means "Day of Atonement". It is also often translated as "Day of Atonement".
The date of Yom Kippur changes from year to year because the Jewish calendar is always calculated according to the moon. According to the Jewish calendar, it is celebrated on the 10th day of the month of Tishri. According to the Gregorian calendar, Yom Kippur falls on different days in September or October.
Women from the age of 12 and men from the age of 13 must fast for 25 hours. The age of 12 or 13 is the age at which girls or boys are accepted into the community of believers. This is roughly comparable to confirmation. From sunset of the previous day until the next sunset, one is not allowed to eat or drink. Before sunset, the "Kol Nidre" is prayed. It contains a confession of sins in which forgiveness is asked for. According to Jewish belief, God will only forgive one's sins if one has first reconciled with the people with whom one has quarreled. That is why many people apologise to people who have angered them.
On Yom Kippur, many Jews do not wear leather shoes. Strictly religious Jews even go to synagogue in their white shrouds, because on this day, according to their faith, God decides the fate of people.
In Israel, all restaurants are closed on Yom Kippur. Public life comes to a standstill. Borders and airports are also closed. The streets are almost completely car-free. Only ambulances, fire brigades and police drive. Instead, there are many cyclists on the road. There are no radio or television programmes.
In October 1973, Syria and Egypt took advantage of the fact that Israel stands still on Yom Kippur and started a war. This war is known as the Yom Kippur War. The Israelis won it. But today the army is particularly vigilant on this day.