Jews in Israel and around the world are observing Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the High Holy Days and marks the Jewish New Year 5769. For many Israelis, it is a time of repentance and prayer, leading up to the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement.

A holiday poll shows that only 32 percent of Israelis expect peace this year, despite nearly 10 months of negotiations with the Palestinians.

But Leora Eldad, a Jerusalem resident, says the holidays are a time of hope.

"I am praying that we can have peace to the extent that it is possible in these days," she said.

Security is tight: Fearing terrorist attacks, Israel has sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, barring Palestinians from entering the country.

But there is also a festive side to Rosh Hashanah, and Israeli women are cooking up a storm.

Some prefer European-Jewish traditions like matzo ball soup and gefilte fish, but not the native-born Israelis.

"Traditional is boring, we are in the 21st century," says high school student Alona Chen.

Chen says that means a "hip" holiday dinner.

"I am making roasted cauliflower, chicken, beef, lettuce wraps, sourdough bread," she said.

But one tradition is universal - apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year.