No, not this Sylvester. (Source: http://www.swapmeetdave.com/Humor/Cats/Sylvester.htm)
New Years Eve was actually the first "holiday" I ever experienced in Israel, on my Birthright Israel trip as a sophomore in college. (I went to Israel just because it was a free trip and I liked to travel... I didn't expect it to change my life so drastically and ultimately send me here!) On December 31, 2001, our group was staying in a hotel in Jerusalem. The Chabad rabbis leading our trip bought us fairly massive amounts of alcohol, and at midnight we stood on the balconies of a party hall near the top of the hotel, sipping vodka and orange juice screwdrivers, and waiting for the fireworks to mark the start of 2002.
They didn't come.
We finally saw a few little pops and fizzles way off in the direction of Bethlehem.
This was perhaps my first introduction to the vast differences between Israeli and American culture. I wasn't surprised by the lack of Christmas decorations in Israel, but no celebration of New Year's Eve??
To Israelis, New Year's Eve isn't really our holiday. Yes, we might think about going to a pub (especially in Tel Aviv, den of heathens that it is), or we might go for a late meal at a restaurant, but if January 1st falls on a weekday, we'll be working. In fact, the very name by which Israelis call New Year's Eve implies that it's a Christian holiday: "Sylvester," which refers to the anti-Semitic pope whose saint's day falls on New Years Eve. (To boot, "Silvester" is the term used by Germans for New Year's Eve. Nothing like the dual connotation of Nazis and Jew-hating Popes to dampen celebration!)
Because most Israelis are off on Friday, more Israelis are going out to celebrate Sylvester this year than normal. However, when one of my friends posted a call for Sylvester plans on Facebook, she got back the following suggestions: prepare cholent, clean the house, go to sleep early. (And for the record, my friend is about as secular as they get!) There may have been a banner wishing Kiryat Bialik a Sweet New Year and "only good things" in September, but the only sign of Sylvester here was a sale on sparkling white wine at the Super, and that could be coincidence.
So, celebrate Sylvester tonight. Or don't. Either way. Shabbat Shalom, and oh, what it is those Americans say? Eppy New Year?
P.S. My husband and I are going to stay up and celebrate with strawberries and champagne... what can we say, we'll always be American. :)
P.P.S. Heh... I just caught a typo in the version of this message that I posted originally. For the record, we were not partying on top of a hotel in Jerusalem on January 31, 2001, although that would certainly have explained the lack of fireworks...