For the longest time I have wanted to write a post about what I miss the most about America. The main reason I haven’t thus far is because every time I start a list, I start to realize that what I am missing has nothing to do with the differences between Israel and the US. Usually, the list contains items that I wish I had here, like a hand blender or cake pans, which you can purchase in Israel, we just chose not to since we are only here for a limited time so it didn’t seem worthwhile to buy these items. The other items that often show up on the list are related to our apartment. For example, I wish we had a stainless steel sink that drains properly and screens on our windows. But to put those on the list would imply that there aren’t sinks that drain properly in Israel and there are no such things as window screens, which just isn’t true. When it comes to this kind of stuff, Israel is like America in many ways.
Over the past few weeks, I finally found something worth writing about that I miss most about America. Sunday. In Israel, most things shut down for Shabbat, which starts on Friday at sundown and ends Saturday night. To accommodate for the grander observance of the sabbath, the work week here runs from Sunday to Thursday with the possibility of a half day on Friday depending on your place of work. Stores close early on Friday so that everyone can get home and have time to finish last minute preparations before candle lighting.
When we first arrived, and I wasn’t really working, I thought that Friday was just about the equivalent of Sunday. I say just about because we really only had the mornings to do errands or something fun (like go hiking) since we had to make sure we were back in time to finish up any last minute Shabbat preparations. Plus the buses stop running around 3 pm. Now that I am working, even part-time, I recognize that it is not the same at all, especially if you are one of the people who have to work on Fridays. The first thing I miss is having the transition day from Shabbat into the work week. The longer we are here, the harder I find it to go from the relaxing nature of Saturday to the grind of work on Sunday. Back home, Adam and I would typically do work from home on Sunday to prepare for the week, but since it wasn’t an official work day, there was less pressure to get down to business. If we had errands to do or a family gathering or if we really just needed a day to sit around and vegetate, the work could wait because there was no requirement to get it done; working on Sunday just relieved the pressure during the week. Here, because Sunday is an official workday, we try to get up early and get the day started. I don’t babysit until the afternoon but if I have to go grocery shopping and do other daily errands, since this is the time to I have do them, and Adam has to clock his hours, so the sooner he gets started, the sooner he can finish the day.
On Fridays, Adam doesn’t officially have to work, but he sometimes does. I work on Friday until 1:15, so Adam and I never have overlapping time when we are both free to do errands or something fun. Usually Adam sacrifices time during the week and then makes it up later (often on Fridays), or we just do things separately. Overtime, the feeling of working 5.5 days a week is draining, especially when that other half is spent cooking and cleaning for Shabbat.
Adam and I have learned to adjust, and overall we are doing fine, but this week, we felt the loss of Sunday greatly. As many of you know, Adam is a runner and every so often he likes to participate in road races. As his devoted wife, I attend the races as well. I like to be there to watch him start the race, and more often than not I stand near the finish line so I can see him cross it. I also play an important role of holding his stuff. Me being there is part of the race-day experience, and I look forward to it as much as Adam looks forward to the race itself. This week Adam competed in the Gush Etzion 5K. Like all races in Israel, the race took place on Friday morning, and for the first time in 10 years, I was not with Adam at the race. I couldn’t make it because I had to work. Back home, races are usually on Saturday or Sunday (except the Manchester Road Race which is on Thanksgiving). Adam only signs up for races on Sunday, and I can always go because Sunday is a day off. It was very upsetting to not be there, and Adam said it wasn’t as much fun without me.
Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t complain because I chose a job that has me working on Friday, but I know that this is a grander issue since it came up during the coalition talks after the election. One of the political parties wanted to turn Sundays into an official day off, which would give everyone, particularly religious Jews who observe Shabbat, a day for recreation and shopping. It would also make it easier to do things as a family, since many schools are open on Fridays. I was happy to hear the proposal when it was made a few months ago because it validated the feelings I was having about not having much down time with Adam, but the issue has disappeared as more important issues (national security, the budget, etc) have taken over.
The other reason I shouldn’t complain too much is because in about a month, classes come to an end, and Friday will once again became more like Sundays. Yet, the loss of Sunday, even if it was only for a short time, is worth mentioning. Not having it makes me appreciate it more, and while it will be nice to have it back when we return to the US at the end of our adventure, we will then miss having Shabbat and the holidays off as a country. There is no perfect world I guess…
Until next time…