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Jews 4: Goyim 0, New Year’s Eve in Israel

On the Wicked Math of Equality



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Israel can claim it is a democratic state all over Western media, the UN committees and publications, in synagogues all over the world, at Masonic lodges, and whatever other organizations it considers as having enough weight to be of importance. It doesn’t matter. When one checks out the banal details of evil, an image of ugly discrimination arises. New Year’s Eve is not different.

Christmas in Tel Aviv is a sad affair. New Year’s Eve would be equally sad, if it weren’t due to the fact it can’t be ignored. It can’t be prohibited; after all everybody would notice the current year’s number changes after that night. New calendars are issued, and given as gifts. The New Year is everywhere. Please do not despair, the “Jewish Brain” – as certain Israelis like to call themselves in a self congratulatory mood – found a solution. A few days from now, Israel would celebrate the “Sylvester.”

This is no joke. New Year’s Eve parties are called Sylvester in Israel. The “Jewish Brain” was so reluctant to call the day as it should, that it chose the Catholic Saint of the day for that purpose. Pope Sylvester I served between January 31, 314 AD, and December 31, 335. In 325 AD, during his term, took place the First Council of Nicaea. 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"). Hence, 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. He is considered one of the most important popes and was sanctified after his death. Nowadays, the State of Israel celebrates a Catholic Saint, only in order to avoid celebrating New Year’s Eve; a definitely fine example of “Jewish Brain.”

However, I am rushing ahead. What is the New Year in Israel? When does it occur? Few would guess at first sight that such a trivial topic is at the heart of a religious struggle. To be fair, even the Jews themselves cannot agree on a single date. Jewish traditions recognize four “New Year’s Eves” on every year. The commonest is Rosh HaShana (literally “Head of the Year” in Hebrew), which is celebrated the first day of the month of Tishrei, in September or October. The Gregorian date changes because the Hebrew calendar is lunar in nature, meaning it wobbles in cycles of 19 years. The oddest one is Tu Bishvat (literally “15th of Shvat”), the "The New Year of the Trees." It is said from that date onwards, trees feed on the rains of the current year, rather that on undeground water reserves. The other two are celebrated in the months of Nissan and Elul, near Passover and Rosh HaShana respectively.

Formally, civil affairs in Israel are conducted using the Hebrew calendar. That can be seen clearly on all official documents, where the Hebrew date is proudly stated. However, since this calendar wobbles, everybody uses the Gregorian calendar as the main reference calendar – including Israeli Administration offices. Most of the calendars sold in Israel show the Gregorian date in large digits and the Hebrew date in small – almost illegible - digits. Actually, 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!” In the eyes of the Israeli administration, only Rosh HaShana is recognized as a public holiday, with all offices, businesses and shops closed for two consecutive days.

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. 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.

“OK, so they are a bit sluggish and designed an awkward calendar, how is that related to democracy? You know that the BBC, the CNN and Margaret Thatcher claim Israel is a democracy, how dare you…”

One of the problems with Israel being defined as a democracy is that it lacks a Constitution; I’ve commented on various occasions why the infamous Basic Laws cannot be seen as an alternative Constitution. Yet, the Declaration of Independence has an important role in Israel’s legal system, which despite not being a Constitution, it approximates it. The declaration assures complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex, and guarantees freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture. This was a must for Ben Gurion, since the UN conditioned Israel’s independence on a respectful attitude towards human rights. Thus, his team drafted a document promising that but void of power.

The Knesset maintains that the declaration is neither a law nor an ordinary legal document, while the Supreme Court has ruled that the guarantees were merely guiding principles, and that the declaration is not a constitutional law making a practical ruling on the upholding or nullification of various ordinances and statutes. Whenever an explicit statutory measure of the Knesset leaves no room for doubt, it is honored even if inconsistent with the principles in the Declaration of Independence. In other cases, the Declaration of Independence acts as a guiding principle. This is important, especially since Muslims and Christians make up a substantial percentage of the Israeli population. Yet, both Knesset and Supreme Court usually rule against human rights. See for example Israel and the Jewish Fatherland Law for the Knesset and 1264 New Testimonies for the Supreme Court. The Cross of Bethlehem expands on these topics.

Thus we should expect equality among Jews, Muslims and Christians living in Israel. What is the situation of the public holidays? Israeli law designates nine days of official holiday during the year. Of these, Independence Day is supposedly observed by all citizens. The others are Jewish religious holidays which non-Jews or non-Jewish communities may disregard. There are no Muslim Holidays. Ras as-Sanah (the Islamic New Year, note the similarity to the Hebrew Rosh HaShana; Hebrew and Arabic often interchange “sh” and “s.”) is not recognized. The Christian New Year is not recognized. The Jews have four New Year’s Eves (though only Rosh HaShana is an official holiday). Let me summarize: Jews 4: Goyim 0. We don’t see here a democracy, but a strong testimony to the abusive powers of a perceived majority.

Yet, reality is stronger than an evil oligarchy; now Israeli Jews proudly celebrate the day of Saint Sylvester. Next, they’ll celebrate Jesus. Amen.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Tel Aviv!

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