On Wednesday, as Jews from around the world fasted and gathered in prayer in honor of Yom Kippur, the United Nations Headquarters in New York City was closed for an official holiday.
It was good news for the Israeli delegation and other Jewish members of the international community who, according to outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor, should not feel “obligated to work on Yom Kippur” as they have in the past when it was business as usual.
However, despite a letter from 32 nations penned last year to the UN General Assembly which included Prosor’s concerns, Wednesday’s day off at U.N headquarters was not for Yom Kippur.
Instead, it was to celebrate the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha.
Eid al-Adha is a holiday that marks the end of hajj to Mecca and is also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice. The holiday starts on sundown Wednesday night and runs through Thursday when the U.N. will be back in full swing.
The decision to close during the daytime hours before Eid and on the same day as Yom Kippur, however, left many at the UNHQ scratching their heads.
That confusion was even noted in the U.N. press briefing room on Tuesday when a correspondent asked what holiday was being celebrated by the U.N. closure.
“It’s in celebration of Eid,” the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General responded.
But “Eid is the day after tomorrow” a member of the press corps noted, pointing out that the U.N. was closing one day too early.
Then, after someone queried if the U.N. thought Eid was on Wednesday, Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, cut the line of questioning off.
“Don’t come to work. It’s Eid,” Dujarric said. “That’s all I’m telling you. You can… Talk to high powers about this.”
Still, even though the U.N. is yet to formally recognize Yom Kippur, the decision to close on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar was welcome and one step closer to wading through all the diplomatic bureaucracy needed to make Yom Kippur an official holiday at the U.N. once and for all.
That goal, full recognition of the Jewish holiday, is something the Israeli Permanent Mission has been working on for well over a year.
“The issue of Yom Kippur is of a cultural/religious nature,” Yotam Goren, the current First Secretary of the Israeli Mission said, advocating for the U.N to finally recognize Yom Kippur, according to JNS. “It can be an issue that bridges divisions and speaks to the universal values we all hold closely, including reconciliation, forgiveness, and tolerance.”