Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is one of the most grueling, intense, but ultimately joyful days of the Jewish year.

Celebrated 10 days after the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur begins when the sun sets on Friday Oct. 7, 2011 and lasts until sundown on Oct. 8.

It is the tenth day of the month of Tishrei and, according to Jewish belief, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to seal the verdict.

Yom Kippur is a time for teshuvah, repentance or return. It is a time to find the best in yourself and restore any relationships that may be in need of healing. This is done through confessional prayer, spiritual introspection, and by reaching out directly to people who you may have wronged.

Yom Kippur is also a time to fast and cleanse the soul. According to tradition, in letting the physical body fall to the background, the spiritual one can rise.

Those celebrating the holiday must refrain from food, water, leather goods, cosmetics, bathing, and sexual relations.

Despite all the challenges, Yom Kippur is supposed to be one of the most joyous days of the year -- an annual opportunity to begin again.

As in all religious practices, rabbis try to preserve tradition while adapting new elements for the modern times.

Have a look below at the celebrations that are just beginning in Israel: