JERUSALEM, Israel – The United Nations is often known for singling out Israel for condemnation. But oddly enough in recent years, it's adopted some Jewish practices.
On Wednesday, the UN will observe Yom Kippur as an official holiday for the third time. For them that means at least not holding any high level meetings on that day.
After extensive diplomatic efforts by the Israeli Mission to the United Nations (with help from the European Coalition for Israel – a pro-Israel Christian group) the UN finally recognized Yom Kippur in December 2015.
Prior to 2015, there were 10 official holidays at the United Nations, including Christmas, Good Friday and two Muslim holidays. There were other recognized days, called "World Days," which included Buddhist holidays and the Persian New Year, but no Jewish holidays were recognized.
European Coalition for Israel (ECI) Founding Director Tomas Sandell told CBN News he believes the move on the part of the UN to recognize Yom Kippur has both political and spiritual significance.
European Coalition for Israel Director for UN Affairs Gregory Lafitte (second from left), European Coalition for Israel Founding Director Tomas Sandell (third from left) with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (right), Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon and other UN ambassadors at this year's Tashlich ceremony
"Politically as this is a first step in giving Jewish people the same respect as Christians and Muslims for their holidays. But it is only a first step," Sandell said in a written response.
"Spiritually, I believe it is prophetically significant that the nations are gradually adapting to His [God's biblical] calendar - His appointed times," he added.
In an earlier interview, Sandell said that Yom Kippur "has a message which goes beyond Judaism."
The Book of Leviticus says of Yom Kippur, "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…." (Leviticus 23:26-32)
Yom Kippur is only one Jewish holiday/custom to which the United Nations is paying attention.
Last week just before Rosh Hashanah, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and dozens of ambassadors from around the world symbolically threw their sins into the East River in New York in a Jewish tradition known as "Tashlich."
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (forefront) joins Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon at Manhattan's East River for the Tashlich ceremony
Traditionally, "Tashlich," – casting away of one's sins, symbolized by bread, in a body of running water – is carried out for the traditional Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah.
And although the idea of throwing one's own sins into the water for redemption isn't biblical, it's based on a passage in Micah 7:18-20, which says God "will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea."
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon and the European Coalition for Israel organized the event.
"As the Jewish New Year begins, the UN is also beginning a new year. We hope the UN will participate in Cheshbon Hanefesh, an accounting of its actions of the previous year," Danon said at the opening of the event.
According to a press release from the Israel's Mission to the UN, the ambassadors "symbolically cast their sins into the river and blessed the State of Israel for the New Hebrew year."
Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, "I would like to take this opportunity to offer my blessings to the Jewish people."
"Without the Jewish inspiration and contributions to the creation of the UN there would probably be no UN today," said Sandell and ECI Director for UN Affairs Gregory Lafitte. "Tashlich is a good time to reevaluate, to see where we have missed our mark."