Thursday, June 2, 2011

I remember when Sunday was a day of rest

After 40 years living in a Christian country, one becomes accustomed to the idea of Sunday as a day of rest. No school. No work. No synagogue. Lots of pajama time. In fact, after 40 years, the idea of Sunday as a day of rest is completely entrenched in my view of the world. It has nothing to do with religion. It is a cultural phenomenon.

Then I moved to Israel.

I am willing to bet my last shekel that if you asked most North American immigrants what they have found most difficult about their move to Israel, the overwhelming majority would say: NO SUNDAYS.

Well obviously there ARE Sundays but what they mean is that Sunday in not a day of rest because Israel is not a Christian country. In case you are thinking: no big deal, let me stop you in your tracks. It is a bloody big deal. A life altering change. And while living as a Jew in a predominantly Jewish country is a wonderful thing, it is not without a few downsides. Sundays is one.

After nine years I finally have my head around the Sunday-as-work/school-day. But no sooner do I say that then the Israeli infrastructure ups the ante.

Last Thursday I went to the city offices to cancel my son's judo class. When I asked the receptionist where I had to go to do this, she said: "Oh, you have to come back on Sunday between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. when the woman who cancels after school programs is working." She looked embarassed to tell me this which means I was the not the first North American immigrant to look at her as if she had grown an extra head. Resigned, I left.

My next stop was an orthpedic surgeon who I hoped woulde take off my cast next week. I walked into his office and told him what I wanted. He said: "Where's the disk with the xrays of your hand?"

"I don't have a disk of xrays," I told him. (No one in hospital hell mentioned a disk of xrays.)

"Fine, then I can't help you until you go back to the hospital and get the disk. Come Sunday with the disk."

You may have noticed the beginnings of a trenddeveloping here. But wait, there's more.

My final stop was the Emergency Room that had previously helped me. (I use the term "help" in its loosest sense here.) I arrive in the Emergency Xray room only to be told that I cannot get the xrays until .... you guessed it .... Sunday.

WTF is happening Sunday? Is the Messiah arriving?

Apparently Sunday is the official day of reckoning in Israel on any given week. And more important, because Sunday is not a day of rest here, people start wrapping up their official week on Thursday in anticipation of a lazy Friday and a Sabbath Saturday.

So this Sunday, while North Americans will be happily ensconsced in their jammies, lazing around with the newspaper, the weekend newspaper crossword puzzles and a cup of coffee, I will be running around Israel doing errands on what still feels to me like it should be the weekly day of rest...Sunday.