Monday, December 29, 2008


We're going away to celebrate New Year's in a couple of days! New Year's in Israel is called Sylvester and after you read the next paragraph, you will understand why it isn't a national holiday here. You may already know that Israel doesn't use the same Gregorian calendar that we do, so their new year isn't our New Year.

So what kind of name is Sylvester? It's a saint's name actually (who was also a pope):

"The year before the Council of Nicaea convened, Sylvester convinced Constantine to prohibit Jews from living in Jerusalem. At the Council of Nicaea, Sylvester arranged for the passage of a host of viciously anti-Semitic legislation. All Catholic saints are awarded a day on which Christians celebrate and pay tribute to that Saint's memory. December 31 is Saint Sylvester Day - hence celebrations on the night of December 31 are dedicated to Sylvester's memory." I read that Saint Sylvester died on December 31st. He also cured the afore mentioned Constantine of leprosy (after converting him). I guess if I believed that someone saved my fingers from falling off, I'd be thankful too, maybe send a gift basket...Syvester did a whole lot of good things too ( so let's not give him grief for rounding up a killing some Jews. If there is one thing I have learned here, it's that everyone, at one time or another, has persecuted Jews.

There are so many other stories about atrocities against the Jews on January 1st, and you can google them. But Sylvester? But why would Israelis, a country full of Jews, name this day after a Catholic pope who was not so very fond of Jews? I looked through the internets some more and found this:

"It's just because Israel is a Jewish state. The [Jewish] new year holiday is celebrated on the eve of Tishrei 1st. People who immigrated to Israel from western countries still wanted to celebrate the "old" new year, like at home, but could not say that they were celebrating the new year so they used instead the Catholic name of the day, Sylvester. That's why the Jews in Israel celebrate the event using a name of a Catholic saint."

Now that makes more sense. Jews from France, Germany must have started it. I guess it's like Valentine's Day, another secular holiday not celebrated in honor of a forgotten saint, but just on the same day. I could be wrong, but I think the legal holidays in Israel have to actually be mentioned in the bible (i.e. Hanukkah, not a legal holiday here because it's not in the bible).

So nope, it is not a national holiday here, but you wouldn't know it. Hotel prices are higher, and they are very booked. It seems like a lot of people go out or have parties just like in other countries. They just have to go to work the next day.
And it's my birthday again and we are finally getting a break and going out of town to celebrate too. We love Tel Aviv, and we are itching to see more of the country and the region.
So have a Happy Sylvester everyone!

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