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Israeli delegation a no-show at U.N. due to religious holiday

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Delegation is observing Jewish holiday of Sukkot
  • President Obama focused on Middle East peace in his address
  • Sukkot commemorates wanderings after the Exodus

(CNN) -- Israel says its U.N. delegation was not able to attend the U.N. General Assembly session on Thursday because of the observance of Sukkot, a Jewish holiday.

"Due to the overwhelming number of calls and e-mails that we are receiving, even though it is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, we feel that it is necessary to release the following statement," the Israeli consulate in New York said.

There had been questions raised as to why the delegation was absent in light of President Barack Obama's focus in his address about the Middle East peace process. Some of Obama's policies are unpopular among Israelis, and there were questions as to whether the lack of presence was a snub.

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The consulate said the Obama administration had been informed of the absence in advance and stressed that Israeli President Shimon Peres and Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak were present at Obama speech on Wednesday at the Millennium Development Goals summit at the United Nations.

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  • Israel
  • United Nations

"In accordance to established practice when the U.N. General Assembly falls during a holiday or the Sabbath, Israel's Ambassador to Israel's Permanent Mission to the United Nation, the Honorable Meron Reuben, and members of the Mission called Ambassadors and members of their delegation explaining the meaning for Israel's absence during their speech and wishing them success.

"Similar calls were made to Missions who addressed the U.N. on the Sabbath."

Sukkot, which begins on the fifth day following Yom Kippur, commemorates the harvest and the 40 years of exile after Jews escaped after the Exodus from Egypt.

Traditionally, it is one of three major festivals during which a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was made to offer sacrifices. The others are Passover and Shavuot.