Israel urges United Nations to mark Jewish holiday Yom Kippur

Fri May 16, 2014 3:53pm EDT
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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Israel on Friday called for the United Nations to officially mark the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, a day of atonement in September or October when Jews seek forgiveness by fasting and praying.

Of the 10 holidays already recognized by the United Nations, four are religious: the Christian holidays of Christmas and Good Friday, and the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

"There are three monotheistic religions, yet only two are recognized by the U.N. calendar. Such discrimination at the U.N. must end," Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor wrote in a letter to all envoys at the 193-member world body.

A vote by the U.N. General Assembly is likely needed to approve the holiday, during which buildings would be closed and no meetings held. Yom Kippur sometimes conflicts with the annual General Assembly of world leaders in September.

"On the one hand, the United Nations advances values of cooperation and engagement among nations, on the other hand, it is prioritizing one religion over the other," Prosor wrote. "It is about time Jewish employees at the U.N. won't be obligated to work on Yom Kippur."

(Reporting By Mirjam Donath; editing by Gunna Dickson)

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish boy looks on as men pray during the Tashlich ritual near the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the southern city of Ashdod September 12, 2013, ahead of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which starts at sundown Friday. Tashlich is a ritual of casting away sins of the past year into the water. REUTERS/Amir Cohen