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Israel Seeks UN Recognition of Yom Kippur


JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel is often singled out at the United Nations for condemnation. Now, as the Jewish state faces accusations of war crimes for its fight against Hamas terrorists, it is offering an olive branch of sorts that some say could help reconcile an often stormy relationship.

Israel wants the world body to recognize Yom Kippur as an official U.N. holiday.

"We thought that it was the right moment to recognize the most important day in the Jewish calendar as being the day that belongs to the whole of humanity and not only to the Jewish people," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.

The book of Leviticus 23:26-32 says the Day of Atonement, "shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls … and you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the day of atonement to make atonement for you before the Lord your God…"

In Israel and around the world Jewish people mark the day with prayers in the synagogue and complete fasting.

"It's the Day of Atonement because Judaism at the end of the day is also at the origin of Christianity and Islam," Nahshon told CBN News.

There are 10 official holidays at the United Nations, including Christmas, Good Friday, and the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. There are so-called world days, too, including Buddhist holidays and the Persian New Year, but no recognition of the Jewish holy days.

Nahshon describes Yom Kippur as the Jewish people's legacy to humanity.

"It gives also Judaism its right place among the other important religions as a religion that should be recognized by the whole of humanity," he said.

About 60 countries, including the United States and Europe, as well as the Christian organization the European Coalition for Israel (ECI) support Israel's request.

"Jewish people should be recognized for their holidays," the ECI's Tomas Sandell told CBN News. "Yom Kippur in particular has a message that goes beyond Judaism."

The request faces a lot of bureaucratic hurdles. It's unlikely the United Nations would create an eleventh day off mainly due to financial reasons. Yom Kippur could replace a U.S. holiday like Labor Day or alternate with one of them.

So far, the main objection comes from Arab states.

Nahshon said recognizing Yom Kippur could help to ease relations with the U.N.

"We are under the impression that Israel is being singled out for a variety of issues in the political context," Nahshon said.

"And by giving an official recognition to the most important Jewish holiday it will be also a step of reconciliation, and it will make our belonging to the U.N. and our cooperation with the U.N. much easier," he added.

Israel and the Jewish world mark Yom Kippur this year on Saturday, Oct. 4. By next year, they hope the commemoration will include the international community as well.

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