JERUSALEM : Seen from above, it could be mistaken for a COVID-19 lockdown: highways typically jammed with traffic nearly deserted, save for a few pedestrians unhurriedly crossing the street.
But Thursday's virtual standstill in Israel - captured by Reuters drone video - is in fact an annual affair as the country marks Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
Businesses close, air traffic is halted and most Israelis refrain from driving on the Jewish "Day of Atonement", emptying city centres and streets across the country.
Many in Israel's Jewish majority mark Yom Kippur by fasting during the 25-hour holy period, which began at dusk on Wednesday and ends after dark on Thursday.
Others, including many children, take advantage of the deserted highways to ride bicycles, scooters and skateboards without fear of being hit by cars or trams, even in major cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Last year, the holiday standstill was accompanied by a nationwide lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Naftali Bennett, Israel's prime minister, has sought to avoid similar lockdowns during the Jewish high holidays this year by ramping up COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, now in the arms of nearly 32per cent of the country's 9.4 million population.
(Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Janet Lawrence)