New Year’s Eve: On a Strange Veil
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Christmas is a sad affair in Israel, but what about New Year’s Eve? Does then the Israeli Administration silently apply the same human rights violation local laws as in Christmas?
A surprise expected me in Tel Aviv during my first year at its university. Most people ignored Christmas, but talked excitedly of the New Year’s Eve. I was surprised; January 1 is not an official holiday in Israel. Moreover, it was difficult to understand the jargon, because they were not calling it New Year’s Eve.
Formally, civil affairs in Israel are conducted with the Hebrew calendar. That can be seen clearly on all official documents, where the Hebrew date is proudly stated. Unluckily this is a lunar calendar, wobbling in a 19 years cycle. The result is that everybody uses the Gregorian calendar as the main reference calendar – including offices from the Israeli Administration. Most of the calendars sold in Israel show the Gregorian date in large digits and the Hebrew date in small – almost illegible - digits.
Most Israelis would fail if asked to list the names of the Hebrew months in their correct order. “Rosh Hashana is in September or October” they’ll say hesitantly, mixing the Hebrew New Year with the Gregorian dates. The more exact answer “On Tishrei 1” seems much less clear. “When is Tishrei? ah, mostly in September!”
Thus, New Year’s Eve poses a singular problem for Israelis. It functions as the beginning of the year, but it is not recognized as such. It must be understood that New Year’s Eve is seen by Israelis as the Christian New Year. Thus, Rosh Hashana is the year’s official beginning. Most people would refer to January 1 as “New Year,” but this is not the term used for the celebrations on December 31 because that would awkwardly collide with the celebrations in Tishrei’s Rosh Hashana. What can one do?
”Where do you celebrate Sylvester?” a fellow university student asked me and left me speechless. Was she trying to entrap me?
Pope Sylvester I served between January 31, 314 AD, and December 31, 335. During this term took place the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Christian bishops were then convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in an attempt to attain consensus in the church. As such, the council left a legacy discernible even nowadays in the Church. Moreover, Emperor Constantine I accepted the pope’s Gelasian doctrine of papal supremacy, meaning that papal auctoritas ("authority") guides imperial potestas ("power"). As such it can be said this pope defined Europe’s political order until 1648. Recognized as a saint, his liturgical feast is on December 31, the day of his burial in the Catacomb of Priscilla.
So, this young and proud Jewish girl was asking me if I wanted to celebrate a day dedicated to a Christian saint and one of the most important popes in history. In that police state I had reasons to worry, yet, everything turned out being innocent. In futile attempts to recognize the Lord, Jews – and Israel - reject anything related to Christianity. In desperate attempts to forget the Lord (after all they nickname Him: “Be His Name and Memories Forgotten”) they have enforced a useless calendar on an unwilling population. Reality is stronger than an evil oligarchy; now Israeli Jews proudly celebrate the day of Saint Sylvester. Next, they’ll celebrate Jesus. Amen.
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