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18 September 2009
The High Holy Days have begun in Israel.
Israel is marking Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, beginning 10 days of repentance. The Days of Awe, as they are called, culminate with the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.
Rosh Hashanah is a time of prayer and reflection in the synagogue, but at home there are festive meals. One tradition is to dip apples in honey for a sweet new year.
"I want to wish to all the citizens of Israel, a year of peace, and prosperity, a year of security for us and each and every one of you," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israelis may pray for peace, but many are not optimistic about it. Peace talks with the Palestinians have been deadlocked since December, and gaps are wide on thorny issues like the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements.
Relations with the United States have also been strained over Israel's refusal to halt settlement activity, something the Obama administration has been urging the Israeli's to do.
Jerusalem resident Martha Stern says the peace process is like a broken record. "You can give many concessions to the Palestinians, and no matter how many you give, they decide they want more," she said.
Security for Rosh Hashanah is tight. Fearing that militants could try to mar the holiday with attacks, Israel has sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, barring Palestinians from entering the country.