efe-epaJerusalem

Devout members of the Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, branch of Judaism on Tuesday were preparing for the upcoming Yom Kippur holiday throughout their traditional neighborhood of Jerusalem by performing various ceremonies representing atonement and repentance, as documented by an epa-EFE reporter in the ancient Middle Eastern city.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and involves a 25-hour fasting period coupled with constant prayer, as well as the obligation to give to charity. It became a widely-recognized term across the world after the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria.

Every year during Yom Kippur, public transport shuts down, media outlets stop broadcasting and shops, airports and offices are closed in Israel.

Images captured by the epa-EFE journalist in the Holy City's Mea She'arim district showed Haredi men garbed in their holiday best whipping each other on the back with a leather strap as a metaphorical punishment for their sins, a ritual known as Malkot.

The day before, they had performed an atonement ceremony called Kapparot, which involves swinging a chicken over the head three times before ritually slaughtering it and donating the carcass to the poor.

Yom Kippur, regarded the "Sabbath of Sabbaths," is due to start at sunset on Tuesday and precedes the greater Jewish pilgrimage festival known as Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, which this year starts next Sunday.

The Sukkot holiday, which lasts for seven days in Israel, commemorates the etiological myth of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt and the dependence of the People of Israel on the will of God, based on a "mitzvot" (commandment) found in the Book of Leviticus.

On Tuesday, Mea She'arim was already teeming with Sukkahs (temporary wooden booths used during Sukkot for feasting and sleeping), as could be seen in the epa-EFE images.