Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Store Hours in Israel - Understanding Israeli Time

If you're new to Israel, there's one thing you'll need to get used to... Israel Times. Of course during the summer there's Zman Kayitz (זמו קיץ) better known as DST (daylight savings time) and in the winter there's Zman Choref (זמן חורף) or winter time - which would be considered ordinary time. While the additional hour in summer may throw you out of balance - there's another concept of time to be concerned about...

There's a joke about the expression Jewish Time. The Urban Dictionary defines "Jewish Time" as being "Not perfectly on time" (see link for more.) That may be an understatement of sorts. Jewish time has no real time to it. When you are told a meeting will take place at "x" time with the expression "Jewish Time" attached, you can expect the meeting to be at any time (theoretically) from "x" time to two hours later. Never be surprised at the time the meeting (event, ceremony etc.) actually occurs. It will always be "on time" when you understand what Jewish Time actually is!

A famous rabbi of the previous century, Rabbi Zelig Reuven Bengis well understood this concept - just as well as he understood time itself! He would complete the entire Talmud each year - and there were times he managed to complete it more than once in the year. On one occasion, however, he celebrated a Siyum (סיום) - a celebration for having completed a Tractate or the entire Talmud - just a short period after having already just completed the entire Talmud. Everyone was amazed that he could have completed it so quickly yet again, since his last completion and asked how he had managed to do it. "This time," said Rabbi Bengis, "is a most special one!" After a brief pause, he concluded, "I am often invited out as a guest to be present at a wedding, a Brit or the like. The events never seem to begin on time - at the time they are scheduled for. I decided very quickly that whenever I would attend such an event, I would open up my Gemara and begin studying while waiting for the event to begin. This completion of Talmud that I have now completed is due to all those "little moments" I would have had to have waited and wasted during those late events!"

Time is important - and because of that, not only is it vital to understand "Jewish Time". In Israel, it's important to understand "Israel Time." In Israel, you'll find that stores are not always open at all hours of the day (nor night.) It is rare - save for the biggest of supermarkets and other large stores - to find smaller businesses open at all hours of the day. Everyone's store has different hours to it. While many stores are open for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon (offering a wonderful siesta time during the hot summer months!) other stores will open for just four hours in the afternoon. Yet others will open in the morning and evening - but be closed during the afternoon completely. Yet others may only open during the evening!

You may wish to purchase a pair of shoes - for example! You know there's a great shoe shop nearby - perhaps just one bus trip away. You get there within 20 minutes - only to find it's closed! It had just been open for two hours before you arrived, and will open again in another 2 hours, but for now - it's closed!!! 

You'll need to get used to this. Be prepared, take down phone numbers of stores you'd like to visit and always check that the store is actually open - BEFORE going there. 

Don't forget, in Israel, people have a lot more faith in G-d than in many other places. They know their income is assured. There's no real need to be open all day! In fact, even the poorest of store owners will kick you out their stores at closing time - even if you tell them you're about to make a large purchase if they can just keep their store open a little longer.

There are probably two ways to see the situation. One can always get upset at the apparent lack of manners when it comes to store hours. On the other hand one can also learn to respect the store owners who have probably found people wanting to "pop in" for just a "few minutes" to browse and see if there's something they'd like - only to find there isn't - with the store owner losing out on the opportunity to get the needed rest he may need to manage his shop with energy! From the store owner's point of view - the "client" may well be a time waster for him costing him the ability to refresh himself for another few hours of hard work. As a result of the "time wasters", owners are forced to say "NO MORE!" when he so decides.

So don't forget. When you'll be in need of some serious shopping and not looking to be disappointed at the possibility that a store is not open - give them a call first and make sure they're open. 

TIP: If you own a smartphone with a camera, take a picture of the store's sign which displays it's opening times. This way you can easily refer to it any time and know if they'll be open... when you want them to be!

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