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New Years or Sylvester?
01-06-2013 / By:
New Years Eve in Israel has become bigger and bigger in recent years, and whilst not officially celebrated, and there are now hundreds of New Years Eve parties across Israel, as well as many other special events, which cater to all musical, cultural, and social tastes. New Years in Israel is known as Sylvester, and parties are known as Sylvester parties. From the bustling Sylvester parties in Tel Aviv’s many nightclubs to special concerts and local events, it’s not too difficult to locate a local New Year’s event.
New Year in Israel is traditionally celebrated as a Jewish holiday. Foreign travelers who come to the city in large numbers also take part in the New Year in Israel along with the locals. Rosh Hashanah is the first day of the Jewish New year. The celebration of Rosh Hashanah mainly occurs on the first and the second days of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means head of the year or first of the year. Rosh Hashanah in Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron or the day of remembrance or Yom Teruah which is the day of the sounding of the shofar.
New Year in Israel has altogether a different meaning for the people of Israel. While Americans and everyone else around the globe use the New Year as a time to plan for a better life, making all kinds of resolutions, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the New Year.
In Israel, New Years is also known as Sylvester. The Israeli term for New Year's night celebrations, "Sylvester," was the name of the "Saint" and Roman Pope who reigned during the Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.). The year before the Council of Nicaea convened, Sylvester convinced Constantine to prohibit Jews from living in Jerusalem. At the Council of Nicaea, Sylvester arranged for the passage of a host of viciously anti-Semitic legislation. All Catholic "Saints" are awarded a day on which Christians celebrate and pay tribute to that Saint's memory. December 31 is Saint Sylvester Day - hence celebrations on the night of December 31 are dedicated to Sylvester's memory.
Israeli society flows according to the Jewish calendar. Schools and businesses are closed on Shabbat, and the whole country shuts down on Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur. For that reason the secular/Christian New Year has little significance. Yet when a group of secular Israelis discovered that most of the world holds a "New Year’s party," they didn't want to feel excluded.
So why do Israelis prefer to use that term? It's just because Israel is a Jewish state. The [Jewish] New Year holiday is celebrated on the eve of Tishrei 1st. People who immigrated to Israel from western countries still wanted to celebrate the "old" New Year, like at home, but could not say that they were celebrating the New Year so they used instead the Catholic name of the day, Sylvester. That's why the Jews in Israel celebrate the event using a name of a Catholic saint.