By Edith M. Lederer / Associated Press
Thirty-two countries have written to a U.N. General Assembly committee asking the United Nations to recognize Judaism’s holiest day, Yom Kippur, as an official holiday.
The letter to the assembly’s Committee on Conferences, circulated on Wednesday, says the U.N. “recognizes the major festivals of many of the world’s main religions, yet Judaism is not represented.”
“We believe that the United Nations calendar should reflect the organization’s founding principles of coexistence, justice and mutual respect,” the 32 countries said. “We urge the United Nations to correct this inequity and recognize the holiest day of the Jewish faith.”
Israel launched a campaign in May to make Yom Kippur a U.N. holiday.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said in May that a report from the Committee on Conferences would go to the assembly’s budget committee and then to the General Assembly’s 193 member states for a final decision.
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.
The letter to the committee was dated June 30, before the current Israeli-Hamas war began. But it was circulated on a particularly tense day between Israel and the U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned an attack on a U.N. school in Gaza that killed at least 16 people early Wednesday as “outrageous,” adding that “nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.” He said “all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause.”
Ban, the U.S., and many other nations are demanding an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
The 32 ambassadors who signed the letters were from the U.S., Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Bahamas, Canada, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Micronesia, Monaco, Nauru, Nigeria, Palau, Panama, Philippines, Rwanda, Samoa, Seychelles, South Sudan, Suriname, Togo, Uruguay and Vanuatu.
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. The six others are major U.S. holidays — New Year’s Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
The letter said that on Yom Kippur, “The Day of Atonement,” the Jewish people “reflect on the events of the past year and pray that all peoples will enjoy a year of good health, peace and prosperity.”
Jews believe that on Yom Kippur “every person’s deeds are weighed on the heavenly scales of justice and the blessings of the coming year are determined by the good deeds performed in the service of others,” the letter said. “In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, Jews throughout the world seek forgiveness and reconciliation.”
The 32 ambassadors said “the messages of Yom Kippur are universal and as such, we the representatives of the delegations listed below are writing to request that Yom Kippur be included as an official holiday of the United Nations as from 2015.”