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Thursday, December 24, 2009

New Year, What Year?

During my career as an Israeli EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher, I've come across a surprising amount of students who insisted that they lived according to the Jewish Calendar only.  They were sincerely confused and befuddled when I'd give them a list of the English months and tell them to put them in the correct order.  When I was subbing in Ulpanat (the girls high school in) Ofra, my class of relatively recent olot chadashot immigrants from Ethiopia were sure that the English months must be translations of the Hebrew months which they had just learned in Israel.

In Israel it's legal to write Jewish dates on checks and other documents.  You can call us a "bi-calendar country."

I was raised in America and the "goyish calendar" is the one I was raised on and knew best, but with the birth of our children we adopted use of the Jewish Calendar for birthdays.  And that now includes our birthdays, too.

Living in Israel since 1970, we've also been oblivious to American and goyish holidays.  They're irrelevant to our lives.  That includes Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, the Israeli media and commercial interests are getting more goyish.  Here we are in late December and besides the usual annual "what's happening in Bethlehem news," we're being plagued by "New Years" sic stuff.


January first isn't my "new year."  My year begins on the first of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah.  I celebrate according the the Jewish Calendar, even though I sign my checks with goyish dates.

January 1st is the day I must remember to write in a new number, that it's going to be 2010 and not 2009.  I wonder how long it will take me to get that straight.  Each year it's more of an effort, but then again, each year seems to get shorter.  As we get older, each new year is a smaller percentage of our life.

Before I finish with this topic, I'd like to remind you that the Jewish Calendar is based on the moon; it's lunar.  When I'm out at night, I enjoy calculating the day of the month according to how much moon we see in the sky.

22 comments:

Shy Guy said...

Seasons greeting.

Stupid Jews.

Batya said...

gevalt

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
I'm afraid to ask, but did the IDF also issue Xmas greetings to the "relevant" soldiers?
Several years ago, when we were still living in Ashkelon, I heard a fireworks display during the summer. I assumed it was coming from one of the nearby hotels that also host weddings. I looked out my window to see - sometimes we had to look DOWN from the 17th floor. The display wasn't from a hotel. It was from the Soldiers' Recreational Village that had until recently housed the DP's from Katif. Why? - I asked myself. And then I realized the date: July 4.
Israelis are terribly schizophrenic about the calendar. Have you ever noticed how most calendars begin with the month of September and end end in either August or December? There's also a song that starts, "The year begins in the middle of September".
On a practical note, I was at a neighbor's house once when one of her daughters was looking at medicine to see if it had passed the expiration date. Neither she nor her mother had a firm grip on what the numbers for day, month and year meant. The product was way beyond expiration date. Unfortunately we still, even in Israel, have to ensure that our children will be able to handle the Gregorian calendar - just the dates, not the "holidays"!!!.

Shy Guy said...

Bad video: Oy, oy, oy! Merry christmas!

Good read: The Real Story of Christmas.

Batya said...

Hadassa, I actually think that it's good to be familiar with both, like being multilingual in a multilingual world. I'm shocked when neighbors say they don't know their Hebrew birthdate even though they were raised in Israel.
shy, what's with all these?

Shy Guy said...

Batya, click on the first one and be disgusted.

Click on the 2nd one and say "Baruch Shehlo Ahsanni Goy" with a little extra kavana, especially tomorrow morning. :)

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
For anyone who'd like to be spared the disgust, Shy Guy's first link is to Shimon Peres's Xmas greeting. I read the caption and closed the video.
The second link is a short, but comprehensive history of what Xmas and its customs are, including sources for the traditions. It's worth keeping a copy of it if you have cause to argue the issues with people who are willing to "be confused by facts".

Batya said...

Shy, Hadassa, thanks

Shy Guy said...

I suggest listening to Peres. He has a Freudian or reverse Freudian slip at the start. I think it's important to witness how low we go.

Hadassa, my 2nd link only reviews the absurdity of their pagan holiday. If you want to have an intellectual expansion of how ridiculous all of christianity is, visit The Jesus Puzzle. I recently finished reading the book - recommended.

I see Doherty has a newer book out: Jesus: Neither God Nor Man - The Case for a Mythical Jesus.

ProfK said...

Sorry, but as long as Israel is a nation among other nations and as long as it imports and exports products both from and to the rest of the world and does business with the rest of the world, knowing the dates of the secular calendar is important. The Hebrew calendar has relevance to Jews who need to know when days of observance are but the rest of the world does not use the Jewish/Israeli lunar calendar system. Both for safety reasons and for business/diplomatic reasons Israelis need to know the dates in both calendars.

Living in the States we consider ourselves lucky to have both calendars. Hey, you get to celebrate two birthdays, with all the attendant goodies. And just what is wrong with having two new years, and the double chance to wish someone health and happiness twice?

Batya said...

ProfK, I agree with your first part. Rosh Hashannah and goyish New Year are totally different. How can one glorify drunkeness etc as a way of celebrating?

Lady-Light said...

After watching the Perez "Merry Christmas" video, I scrolled down to the comments. Although I recoiled at watching him say those words (I mean, 'Season's Greetings' is bad enough, but "Merry X-Mas?"), I was very interested in all the positive comments on the video and blessings for Israel.

Perhaps, in this anti-Israel and anti-Jewish world, it's OK for an Israeli president to wish non-Jews (the majority of the world's population, after all) happy holidays; it promotes 'good will' towards everyone; he should have used the words "happy holidays," however, because 'Merry X-Mas' implies belief.

Batya said...

LL, are the xtians the majority? I'm not sure. At most plurality. In America you feel the dominance, but I don't know if it's the truth.

Lady-Light said...

According to Adherents, Christianity comprises approximately 33% of the world's religions (with Islam nipping at its heels at 21%), which makes you correct: it's a plurality rather than a majority.

The United States was founded by religious Christians (I am lumping here all sects into one umbrella organization called 'Christianity'), so it is understandable that X-Mas and other Xtian holidays are the major focus here, with all their hoopla and commercialism.

Israel, however, is not a Xtian country and should not be. In essence, Israel should be a Jewish land run according to Jewish principles, however that's worked out.
Now, if that were the case--because unfortunately it's not as of yet--then I would feel much better about Perez's address to the non-Jews of the land. But I said in my last comment that I 'recoiled,' because Israel isn't yet the Jewish country it's supposed to me (in my opinion), and what Perez-the-Prez said might encourage more public celebrations and observances of non-Jewish holidays, which would (chas ve-chalilah)undermine the Jewish character of the State.

Batya said...

LL, so true. We still have quite a way to go.

ProfK said...

Batya,
Re "How can one glorify drunkeness etc as a way of celebrating?" Purim anyone? And let's not pooh pooh that--the facts speak for themselves every year. Not all celebrating of the secular new year is alcohol laden. Plenty of people who drink nothing and plenty who raise only one glass in celebration--hardly drunkeness.

Batya said...

I don't celebrate it: I just pray that I won't miss-write checks.

ProfK said...

A little practical tip to help with the date mis-writing until you get used to its being 2010. I take the checkbook and write in 2010 at the end of the date line on the check for the first 10 checks or so. All I have to do when writing the actual check is put in the month and date.

Batya said...

Thanks, great idea!

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
There's no mitzva to get drunk on Purim. The word is, in Aramaic, "levesumeh" or in Hebrew "lehitbasem" and an accurate translation into colloquial English is "a slight buzz". If the Talmud was referring to drunkenness, the word used would have related to being "shikor", drunk.
On the subject of dates, we should remember that Rav Kook would not attend a wedding if the invitation included the Gregorian date. There's no reason at all for transactions between Jews to include non-Jewish dates unless it's for international-legal reasons.

Sammy said...

In the United States Jewish calendars show both dates (the civil date usually larger) and while they begin in september tehy don't end in August. they end after the next Rosh Hashonah and usually in October, making them 14-month calendars. I think I saw one that went on till december. A few sometimes end in september and weekly calendars end at the next erev Rosh Hashonah.

Batya said...

Here, it's very common to find the year and a third, from Sept to the next year's Dec calendars. That's especially those marketed internationally, sold to tourists.