UN in New YorkNew York, September 19th, 2016 – The European Coalition for Israel will join world leaders from 193 nations in attending the high level segment of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, which begins in New York today on Monday, September 19th, with a high-level plenary meeting to address the large movements of refugees and migrants.

ECI has attended every opening session of the UN General Assembly since 2011 when a petition against a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood was submitted to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by a delegation from ECI, urging the international community to keep Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty. The petition was presented with a file of over 60,000 hand-written signatures.

ECI was also present in the chamber of the UN General Assembly the following year on November 29th, 2012, when the nations voted overwhelmingly to accord Non-Member Observer State status to Palestine.

In April 2014, ECI founded the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy (FCD) as an arm of its work at the United Nations. Over the last few years FCD has met with some 80 permanent missions to the UN to campaign for UN recognition of the Jewish religious holiday of Yom Kippur as an official UN holiday. This year will mark the first time since the creation of the UN in 1945 when a Jewish holiday is duly recognized as an official UN holiday and is no longer a working day. This now makes it possible for Israeli delegates to participate fully in the high level meetings.

Since 2012, ECI and FCD have hosted many high level diplomatic events at the UN headquarters in New York to mark the Jewish holidays and to explain their universal message to the international community. Among the Jewish holidays that have already been celebrated are Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana and Pesach (Passover). Last year ECI marked the opening week of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in celebrating the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, by observing the Jewish ceremony of Taschlich. The event was organized and took place in the Rose Garden of the UN, with the active participation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Later, in a written communication to ECI, Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the work of the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy as “very important”.

The visit this year by Founding Director Tomas Sandell and UN Director Gregory Lafitte comes only ten days after the international board of ECI met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, where he acknowledged the importance of the work of ECI in helping to achieve UN recognition of Yom Kippur. Later this week ECI has been invited to a high level meeting on Israeli technology and innovations hosted by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

During the week ECI will also be attending a meeting of the current EU-Presidency which is held by Slovakia whose President Andrej Kiska is hosting a reception on Tuesday night. In bilateral meetings with Heads of State or Government and UN diplomats, ECI will take the opportunity to thank all the nations who have supported the recognition of Yom Kippur.

“The UN is today a better place for the Jewish people because of these reforms”, said ECI Director for UN Affairs, Gregory Lafitte. Earlier this year Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Danny Danon, was appointed as chairman of the UN Sixth Committee (Legal), and he is the first Israeli ever to lead a major UN committee.

ECI was founded in 2003 to be a Christian voice in support of Israel at the European Union in Brussels. Already in 2011 it was clear that Israel needed a similar voice of support at the United Nations in New York.
“Israel is only one nation among 193 in the United Nations and until 2000 it was not even a member of any of the regional groups. We could not leave Israel to stand alone. We are fully committed to standing for Israel both at the European Union in Brussels and at the United Nations in New York where in the past Israel has so often been isolated. It is not in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but in the international capitals of Brussels and New York that Israel needs more friends”, said ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell in conclusion as he was explaining the reason for ECI to keep coming back each year to the UN.

The General Debate of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly will conclude on Monday September 26th.