It is also the final day of the "Ten Days of Repentance," a period that begins with Rosh Hashanah during which Jews reflect upon their past deeds and resolve to improve in faith and actions.
It is traditional to fast on Yom Kippur, and many Israelis, including those who consider themselves secular, do so. Those who more strictly adhere to biblical law also refrain from wearing leather shoes, bathing, using cosmetics, and engaging in marital relations. These prohibitions are intended to empower one to concentrate on spiritual matters.
Yom Kippur begins at sundown with a stirring prayer called Kol Nidrei ("All Vows"), which is a request for forgiveness for all vows that have not been fulfilled.
The following day is spent immersed in prayer, which includes confession of sins, petitions for forgiveness, readings from the books of Leviticus, Isaiah, and Jonah, and a description of the services of the High Priest in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. It is customary to wear white clothes as a symbol of purity. Yom Kippur concludes at sundown with the Ne'ilah ("Closing") prayer and the sounding of the shofar.
Yom Kippur is a legal holiday in Israel—there are no television broadcasts, airports are shut down, there is no public transportation, and all shops and businesses are closed.