From sunset to sunset

in Tel Aviv, Israel
403 words, 2 minutes to read

“We’ll close today at seven”, said the shop clerk on the eve of Yom Hazikaron. Most of the stores and restaurants did likewise, with 19:00 being roughly the moment of sunset at this time of year. Israel lives on a curious schedule, counting many of its days from sunset to sunset.

The Shabbat is perhaps the best known example on this schedule. It begins just before sundown on Friday, followed by twenty four hours during which religious Jews must abstain from any and all melakhoth (“deliberate activity”, mostly creative work), and finishes at sundown on Saturday. (Fun fact: the metal detectors at the Western Wall in Jerusalem were officially “Shabbat certified”, meaning crossing them to pray at the Wall did not violate the Shabbat.)

During the whole Shabbat public transportation in Tel Aviv was reduced to irregularly riding minivans, in place of the regular horde of blue buses. I was sitting on the balcony of our apartment on Saturday evening, reading, when I noticed regular buses return to the streets. Realizing it was past sunset, it felt like the world going back to normal. Observation of the Shabbat isn’t particularly strict in Tel Aviv, but it’s still a much quieter day than any other, and one that feels slightly bizarre.

Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut were celebrated on a similar schedule. The former started on Tuesday evening, with many celebrations throughout the twenty four hours that followed. Then Wednesday evening Yom Ha’atzmaut began, around 19:00 and soon afterwards, shortly before 21:00 a number of parties across the city started, celebrating the state’s 70-year anniversary of independence.

The week isn’t quite aligned to what we’re used to in the western world either. Fridays and Saturdays are off (with some companies working Friday mornings), while Sundays are regular working days. Though with many people living here not being hardcore religious, this isn’t universally the case. Some restaurants or shops take Sundays or Mondays off.

The reason I find this schedule exotic is probably just me being a regular, payroll, nine-to-five employee with standard working times. There are plenty of people working different days and hours (ie. shops, restaurants, public services) or without a set schedule at all (freelancers, remote workers). After all, any weekday is the same as any other, and every hour is similar, unless we decide that it’s meaningful in some way. The Jews and Israelis have simply a different alignment of meaning.