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Israel seeks to make Yom Kippur a UN holiday

May 16, 2014

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Israel has launched a campaign calling for the United Nations to recognize Judaism’s holiest day, Yom Kippur, as an official holiday.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor sent a letter to all U.N. member states saying there are three major monotheistic religions but only two — Christianity and Islam — are recognized by the U.N. calendar.

“Such discrimination at the U.N. must end,” Prosor said in an excerpt of the letter sent to journalists Friday by Israel’s U.N. Mission.

“In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, Jews throughout the world seek forgiveness and reconciliation,” he said. “Jews fast, abstain from work, and spend the day in prayer and contemplation.”

Prosor asked the 192 other ambassadors to join Israel’s campaign by signing a letter urging the United Nations to recognize Yom Kippur.

“It is about time Jewish employees at the U.N. won’t be obligated to work on Yom Kippur,” he said.

There are currently 10 official U.N. holidays including the Christian holidays Christmas and Good Friday and the Muslim holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, which were added after the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution in 1998. The six other holidays are major U.S. holidays — New Year’s Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said a decision to make Yom Kippur a U.N. holiday “is a matter for the member states.”

He said the proposal would first go to the Committee on Conferences, which Israel is currently chairing. Its report would then go to the General Assembly’s budget committee, Haq said.

Israel has had an often difficult relationship with the United Nations and is attacked regularly over its dealings with the Palestinians and the failure to reach a peace deal that would create an independent Palestinian state.

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