Should the United Nations have the day off for Yom Kippur? An Israeli initiative to have the holiest day of the Jewish year recognized as an official holiday at the world body picked up steam last week, when 32 countries wrote in support of the proposal to a U.N. General Assembly committee. The group — including the United States, Canada and a host of small countries — noted that the U.N. “recognizes the major festivals of many of the world’s main religions, yet Judaism is not represented.”
We like the idea of U.N. recognition of the Day of Atonement, but we’re not quite comfortable with the suggestion that the failure to do so is religious discrimination. We were therefore a bit uncomfortable in May, when Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Ron Proser, launched the initiative and declared: “There are three monotheistic religions, yet only two are recognized by the U.N. calendar. Such discrimination at the U.N. must end.”
The purpose of the U.N. calendar is to regulate the organization’s business, much like a school calendar does. As such, its first priority is not to celebrate every religion’s holiday. Granted, Jews would find it convenient not to have U.N. business on a day when they won’t be working and are likely to be in synagogue. But religious discrimination?
Eight of the 10 U.N. holidays are American holidays — Independence Day, Labor Day, New Year’s and the like. The United Nations is closed when the post office is closed. The eight also include the Christian Good Friday and the Christian Christmas. Holidays 9 and 10 are the Muslim Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha — holidays that the local Muslim community is trying to get recognized by the public schools.
We would be proud to have even one Jewish holiday alongside these 10 “observed” by the U.N., and commend Israel for taking up the cause. But if the effort fails, we have much more important issues of “U.N. unfairness” to worry about — particularly the organization’s proclivity to blame Israel for virtually everything that goes wrong in the Middle East.