Work doesn't stop at the end of December!

In the US (and in the blogosphere), almost everything comes to a halt between Christmas and New Year's day. Even all my Jewish family and friends in the US are on vacation. It's the US equivalent of the "achrei hachagim" phenomenon that sweeps Israel every fall and spring.

Here in Israel, though, Dec. 25 is just another day. My husband and I went out for (amazing) sushi for lunch on Friday not because only Asian restaurants were open, but because we felt like soy sauce and wasabi with a little raw fish on the side. (Or maybe that was just me.) I went fabric shopping and got a great deal on Ultrasuede to reupholster my sofa. Our only rush was to get all our errands done before Shabbat, because everything shuts down from Friday night to Saturday night in Israel-- it was only part way through the day that I realized Americans were celebrating.

By the way, here's one of my favorite ways to identify true Sabras: ask them when "Chag HaMolad" (Holiday of the Birth, aka Christmas) happens. If they guess the wrong day in December, you know they're the real deal. The one possible exception might be the armies of young Israelis hawking Dead Sea products in US malls-- believe me, they understand the concept of a "holiday season."

My husband is back at work, so I've been using this time to catch up on my own rather intense backload of work for my day job. And, oh yes, Sunday's a work day. If you're an American coming to Israel, prepare for your internal clock to get confused.

There are, though, signs that Christmas happened here. Russian grocery stores send out advertising circulars covered in Christmas trees, which makes me kind of sad. I mean, yes, I know that the communists did a good job of convincing Russian Jews that these are secular New Year's Trees and should be in everyone's homes, but come on, Russim-- you're in Israel now. In the Arab neighborhoods in Haifa, a few strands of Christmas lights blink from balconies. Other than that, though, life carries on. I saw menorahs dripping in stores and booths in the mall during Chanukah, but no Christmas garlands or sales the past few days. No "Happy Holidays" from people who really mean "Merry Christmas."

It's nice. :)


  1. You do realize that lots, though certainly not all, of those Rusim are simply that: Rusim. And not Yehudim.

    I'm not sure where this statistic is from, but I heard that the fastest growing religion in the 1990s in Israel was the Russian Orthodox Church.

  2. Yikes, that's a sad statistic. I realize that a lot of the Russim actually feel no connection to Judaism and likely aren't Jewish, although they obviously had to claim to be Jewish to immigrate here. I also had friends (in Jewish organizations in college) who were raised without being told they were Jewish in the formber Soviet Union so they could avoid antisemitism, so even Russian immigrants who are Jewish were mostly raised without any connection to their religion.

  3. hi! i wrote a post basically the exact opposite of yours... i'm not jewish but married to an israeli so i missed christmas this year. it's only my first one here in israel so i'm sure i'll get over it.. but i can understand how jews who grew up in the states can enjoy this time of the year rather than being bombarded by the christian celebrations. glad i found your blog! have a great evening... :)

  4. For us Jewish Rusim, both in Israel and the United States, New Year Trees are a Big Deal that don't have anything to do with Christmas or Jesus, and here's why: http://www.vickiboykis.com/2009/11/23/whats-the-deal-with-the-russian-new-year-tree/

    For most of us, it's a magical time of year combined with nostalgia for the New Years we used to know in Russia.

  5. Blanche, I know how hard that can be... on of my friends converted to Judaism on literally the day before Pittsburgh, and it was a bit sad for her to be doing nothing when her whole family in Brazil was celebrating! Hang in there! :)

    Hey Vicki, thanks so much for sharing that. I love your blog, and I can definitely understand the draw of a New Year's Tree better now. And hey, I grew up with a Christmas tree (long story!), so I can understand the nostalgia for a perfectly secular Christmas tree celebration. Still doesn't seem Jewish, but that's just me... 80 years is a long tradition in its own right.


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