Parents all over Israel breathed a collective sigh of relief as they sent their kids to school on Thursday, September 1.
Another phenomenon that began on approximately the same day was the throwing around of the phrase “aharei ha’chagim” (after the holidays). The “holidays,” starting this year on October 2, are: Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year; Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement; and Sukkot, an 8-day festival that includes building temporary shelters outside. Jewish holidays are national holidays so in this 3-week period there are a lot of days off, children are home from school, and it’s hard to get anything done.
One of the rhythms of life in Israel is for people to put off new projects until after the holidays, but this national procrastination often starts about a month before the holidays actually begin. This can sometimes delay projects for up to two months! The holidays are usually in September, so after the slow-down of August, people are busy trying to catch up at work. They don’t want to start anything new. So it’s a pretty common conversation among workers to discuss some new project in September and the agreed-upon start date is “aharei ha’chagim.”
The only comparable scenario that I can think of in the US is if you have an idea for something new on December 20, it’s pretty easy to say that you’ll discuss it after the first of the year because you have to get through Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a slight exaggeration, but imagine the slow-down if any project you pitched in November was delayed until after Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
Aharei ha’chagim can also be used sarcastically at other times of the year. If someone is constantly delaying a project, it would be perfectly appropriate to ask, “Oh, and when will you be getting started on that? Aharei ha’chagim?” I imagine that it could be used by a parent to their teenager, “When did you plan to clean your room? Aharei ha’chagim?”
Aharei ha’chagim is most often used around the holidays in September, but it is also used before the Passover holiday in the spring. Passover is 8 days long and about 2 weeks before people might start delaying projects to aharei ha’chagim.
Stepping back to look at the big picture, I see aharei ha’chagim as part of the intensity of life in Israel, not a lazy delaying tactic. In Israel, you work hard during the week and during the year and then rest completely and unplug from the world during Shabbat and holidays. You finish everything you have on your list before the holidays, rest and rejuvenate during the holidays, and then give 100% effort to something new aharei ha’chagim.