A boy rides his bike on the empty Ayalon highway on Yom Kippur.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – After more than a year of diplomatic efforts led by the Israeli Mission to the United Nations, the body has recognized Yom Kippur as an official UN holiday.
Thursday’s decision was made by the UN workers committee and the UN secretariat.
A step forward had been made in 2014 when the 69th General Assembly recognized the importance of the holiday as the holiest day of the Jewish year.
The designation means no official meetings will take place on this day and employees can choose to not work on that day.
Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon called the move “a decisive victory” that “finally provides an official place for the Jewish religion in the world’s parliament.”
The recognition would not have been possible, he said, without the cooperation of the US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who prevented the anti-Israel majority at the UN from blocking the resolution.
“Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, and the UN should have recognized this holiday many years ago,” Danon said.
“The American-Israeli Partnership at the UN stands for good versus bad and right versus wrong. The value of justice, anchored in Jewish tradition and thought, will finally find its place in the family of nations, and be a part of the UN’s history,” he added.
Until Thursday, the United Nations had recognized 10 official holidays, including Christmas and the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr.
Last Yom Kippur, as part of the campaign to gain the recognition, Danon’s predecessor Ron Prosor, held the first-ever Tashlich ceremony at the UN, a ritual consisting of the symbolic throwing away of the wrongdoings of the previous year into water, thereby letting go of the burdens of the past in order to start the new year with a clean slate.
Attendees included representatives of countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Grenada, Tanzania, the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone, as well as UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon.