Saturday, January 2, 2010


No-one knows quite how to relate to New Year's Eve in Israel. Some people have started wishing others a shana ezrachit tova (a "happy civil" - as opposed to Jewish - "new year") but somehow this doesn't roll off the tongue. Religious people shun Sylvester entirely of course as an odious alien custom. But secular Israelis, i.e. those of us who are not averse to sharing some non-Jewish notions with the rest of the world, have been increasingly interested in joining the global party.

Strangely, instead of just adopting New Year's Eve as a totally non-religious excuse for a booze up as in other countries, in Israel, New Year's Eve is referred to as 'Sylvester' . Not clear how many Israelis are aware that this is named after Pope Sylvester (314- 335 AD) who was very chummy with Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor. Apparently, since, "in the West, the liturgical feast of Saint Sylvester is on 31 December, the day of his burial and since this is the last day in the year , in German-speaking countries and in some others close to them, New Year's Eve is known as Silvester." Was it German speaking immigrants who brought the name to Israel?

Whatever the reason, Sylvester has caught on in a big way, especially in the Tel Aviv bubble, where every pub and club offered a Sylvester special. We, in our own tradition celebrated at the home of friends. After dinner and copious glasses of punch and wine, we sat around, each of us pronouncing our New Year's rezolutzia. The only condition from our genial host was that (in the interests of avoiding a cliche) we we were not allowed to ask for the release of Gilad Shalit.

One friend said that because of what is going on in the Territories he felt increasingly ashamed of being an Israeli and hoped that in the coming year he would be able to feel less ashamed. We all drank to that. A few turns and toasts later, 'J' was greeted with applause when she threw caution to the wind and wished, despite previous warnings, for the return of Gilad Shalit. 'I'  (not I) responded from the left with a wish to see Marwan Barghouti released too and that also got a round of applause.

At about 1 a.m. we walked back to Trumpeldor Street where we had parked the car (somewhat creatively) in a no parking zone. There were maybe twenty cars there, but not mine. Sylvester or no Sylvester, the towing department of Tel Aviv municipality recognises no foreign interference.

Thanks to H for the pic. Note first photoshop attempt.


ניקו בלאק / Nicholas Black said...

Great blog - too bad you chose to equate the fate of Barguti to that of Shalit's. Despite knowing Barguti in person, yes he really is a nice fellow, let's not forget that he doesn't play for our team. A toast to Shalit - who is paying a very high price for his name being synonymous with a cliché. שנה אזרחית טובה לכולנו.

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