This week I headed out early on Yom Rishon, (lit: “First Day”), Sunday morning in order to get all of my errands done. I started out on Sunday not Monday, because in Israel, Sunday is everywhere else in the Western world’s Monday! My first stop was at the local bank branch to attend to a personal banking matter and to do my son the favor of depositing the birthday check he had received from his paternal grandfather. As I stood in line waiting for my turn with the bank teller, I looked over the check my son had given me. I added his account number and then when I turned the check over again it hit me! The check, written in Hebrew, clearly included a little Jewish humor between grandfather and grandson – it was dated with my son’s Hebrew date of birth according to the Hebrew calendar without including the secular date on it. I knew I could deposit the check because the Hebrew date is a date of legal tender in Israel.
Still waiting for it to be my turn, (the lady ahead of me had a complex transaction), I tried to figure out if I could deposit it on Sunday, 3rd July 2011. I ran a quick calculation, thinking to myself: “Ok, its second day Rosh Hodesh Tammuz (lit: head/top of the Hebrew month of Tammuz). Today is 3 July 2011 which corresponds to Aleph (1) b’Tammuz 5771 and the check is dated Dalet (4) b’Tammuz 5771. Nope, can’t deposit it today. But wait, my father-in-law left a space for writing the secular date, I could just write in today’s secular date. No, better not I could end up invalidating the whole check….”
I was so lost in thought that I neglected to notice that it was my turn. I reacted with a startled jump when the bank teller called out my name and asked me to step up to his counter. (Banking is very personal in Israel, of course the bank teller knows my name!) Hoping that the bank teller wouldn’t notice the dating issue I handed him the check at which point, he smiled at me and said: “This is for Dalet B’Tammuz, just a minute let me see when that is on the secular calendar!”
A helpful ultra-orthodox fellow three people behind me in line, cheerfully called out “Dalet B’Tammuz falls out on the 6th of July”. My bank teller said, “Ok, so come back Wednesday with the check!” Since I couldn’t come back on Wednesday with the check, I ended up paying NIS 15 (about $5) in banking fees to leave instructions for the check to be placed on “automatic delayed deposit according to Hebrew date of legal tender”. Given that I didn’t have to fill out any special forms in order to give this instruction, it must be that this sort of thing happens with some frequency in Israel. Despite the extra NIS 15 cost, the liberal Zionist in me is just delighted, in the year 2011, which corresponds to the Hebrew year 5771, Israel banks on the secular calendar but more importantly it banks on Hebrew days and dates!