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Friday, September 13, 2013

Medics on high alert as Israel prepares to Yom Kippur fast during a heat wave

Israelis are bracing themselves for an especially hot Yom Kippur, with temperatures rising Friday to over 40 degrees in the Golan Heights and Lake Kinneret region. In the Dan region the mercury will rise to 34 degrees with relative humidity of 50 percent. Jerusalem will see 36 degrees. Saturday, the day of the fast, will be only slightly cooler, possibly one degree less in most of the country - and it will continue to be hotter than usual.

Magen David Adom will be at a record level of preparedness because of the heat and will be adding on duty medics and ambulances all over the country. For the first time, Magen David Adom will place medics with resuscitation equipment in some synagogues. The preparedness is a lesson learned from previous years, when an average of 2,000 people needed treatment during the fast day. Some 200 of them were children who were injured on the roads while riding bicycles, skate boards and roller skates.

Magen David Adom has called on the public not to interfere with its ambulances on the holy day. They also recommend drinking large amounts of water before the fast - and to reduce consumption of caffeine and sweetened drinks. The sick, elderly and pregnant women are advised to consult their doctors before fasting.

The West Bank was placed under closure starting at midnight this morning and will end at midnight Saturday night. The IDF Spokesman said that the only ones who will be allowed to enter Israel during the closure, requiring approval of the IDF's Civil Administration, are doctors and people approved for humanitarian reasons.

Public transportation in Israel stops Friday afternoon for Yom Kippur, and resumes only late Saturday night.

The last buses will run until sometime between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Friday. The Dan bus company says its last buses will leave at 2:30 p.m., and Egged will stop its city buses gradually between 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Egged’s intercity buses will stop operating between 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Israel Railways will end much earlier than usual for a Friday, using the regular Friday schedule until 11 a.m., but gradually ending all service by 2 p.m.

Bus service will resume between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday night after the fast day ends - and will run according to the regular Saturday night schedule after that. But the trains will start later as rail preparations take much longer. The first train will leave only at 11:36 p.m. from Be’er Sheva to Nahariya, via Tel Aviv. After midnight the trains will run according to the regular schedules.

The good news is for bikers in Tel Aviv. The city’s Tel-O-Fun bike rental service will be available to subscribers over the holiday. Subscribers can rent a bicycle before the holiday and return it afterwards.

All air transport to and from Israel, international and local, will halt completely on Friday before the Yom Kippur fast day. Israeli airspace will be closed at 1:50 p.m. on Friday.

This year, the closure will be an hour later than usual since Daylight Savings Time is still in effect - for the first time. Yom Kippur is the only day of the year when there are no planes flying over Israel.

Some 34,500 passengers are expected to pass through Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday, the eve of the fast, said the Israel Airports Authority. There are 207 flights scheduled for the day until Israeli airspace is closed. The two last flights scheduled are an arrival from Ljubljana and a departure for Copenhagen.

The airport will reopen for flights at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night, about three hours after the holiday ends. The first takeoff will be at 11:30 p.m., a Royal Jordanian flight to Amman. The terminal at Ben-Gurion airport will reopen about three hours before this flight.

Only 3,176 passengers on 23 flights are scheduled to fly through Ben-Gurion airport Saturday night after Israeli airspace reopens.

About 1.5 million passengers are expected to pass through the airport during the period of the Jewish holidays this September, about a 10 percent increase over the holiday period last year. So far in September, some 500,000 passengers have passed through Ben-Gurion airport on 2,425 flights.

The IAA recommends that passengers use the airlines’ Internet sites to check in for flights, that they check actual arrival and departure times before leaving for the airport, and that they arrive at the airport some three hours before their flight.

“The increased passenger traffic from the summer continues. The efforts of employees during the record setting periods of passenger traffic at Ben-Gurion airport will continue until after the holidays, with the goal of preserving a high level of service for passengers, while focusing on the passenger experience and the expedited schedule” said Shmuel Zakai, the acting manager of the airport. “The IAA has also prepared for the return of 20,000 Breslov Hasidim from Uman in Ukraine,” he added.

The western section of Terminal 1 at Ben-Gurion will open on November 1 for “low cost” flights, as part of the new “Open Skies” policy, said Zakai.

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