The U.N. General Assembly committee has received a letter from 32 countries asking the United Nations to recognize Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, as an official holiday, Associated Press reported.
Addressing the U.N.’s Committee on Conferences, the letter circulated on Wednesday states that the U.N. “recognizes the major festivals of many of the world's main religions, yet Judaism is not represented.” Israel began its campaign in May to make Yom Kippur a U.N. holiday.
"We believe that the United Nations calendar should reflect the organization's founding principles of coexistence, justice and mutual respect," the 32 countries said, in the letter. "We urge the United Nations to correct this inequity and recognize the holiest day of the Jewish faith."
Farhan Haq, the U.N. deputy spokesperson, said at the time that the Committee on Conferences would table the request before the assembly’s budget committee, and then forward it to the 193 member states of the General Assembly before a final decision is made. Israel has had a difficult relationship with the U.N. for what many perceive to be its heavy-handed approach toward the Palestinians.
The letter, dated June 30, was sent to the committee before the 2014 offensive against Hamas in the Gaza strip began, but it was only circulated yesterday, when situations are tense between Israel and the U.N.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Israel over an attack on a U.N. school in Gaza that killed at least 16 children on Wednesday, calling Israel’s action “outrageous” and that "nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children." He added that "all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause.”
The U.N., the U.S., and many other nations are demanding an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
The 32 countries that support Israel's demand for the Yom Kippur holiday are 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.
The 10 official holidays at the New York-based U.N. currently include the Christian holidays of Christmas and Good Friday; the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha; and, the remaining six holidays are major U.S. holidays - New Year's Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving Day.
The letter described Yom Kippur as “The Day of Atonement” for the Jewish people to “reflect on the events of the past year and pray that all peoples will enjoy a year of good health, peace and prosperity," adding that the Jews believe, on the occasion of Yom Kippur, that “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,” and that “in the days leading up to Yom Kippur, Jews throughout the world seek forgiveness and reconciliation.”
The letter from the 32 ambassadors went on to say that "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."