Israel Considering Second Day of Rest
Sunday may finally be added to the weekend over in the Holy Land
The Israeli government is pondering the possibility of adding Sunday as an official day of rest. Currently, the work week runs from Sunday to Thursday in Israel, with many citizens also using half of Friday to conduct business. The new proposal, put forward by Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, Silvan Shalom, would officially designate Friday as a half-day of work followed by a two-day weekend. Details of the proposed plan would include longer school and work hours for Israelis from Mondays to Thursdays, in order to compensate for the lost working time on Sundays.
The new format is similar to the ones used by Western countries, argued Shalom, who stated that introducing a “long weekend” is desirable because it is adopted by “developed world states.” According to Shalom, this would be a rare opportunity for Israel to adopt Western culture without risking the abandonment of Jewish values to do so.
The proposed new weekend would “enable coordinated trading in currency, foreign equities, commodities, mutual funds and other financial instruments connected with international markets,” according to a report from Shalom’s office. He says that financial markets in Israel would benefit more if weekends were aligned with the Western world, rather than with Israel’s Muslim neighbours. Israeli business people involved in export businesses supported the proposal, feeling that Sunday is quite pointless currently due to the lack of North American businesses operating on that day.
Shalom also felt that a two-day weekend would provide positive contributions to the Israeli economy from observant Jews, who would have an extra non-work day to go on vacations and buying trips.
“The main creator of jobs in Israel today is not the manufacturing sector but trade and services,” said Uriel Lynn, president of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce. “If Sunday is a full holiday when people can go out with their families to shop and enjoy themselves, it will create more jobs in trade and services.”
Shalom’s main opposition regarding the issue is Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, who prefers making Friday an official part of the Israeli weekend. Steinitz argued that Israelis are already very unproductive on Fridays as it is and that civil service expenses would increase on Sunday if it were a day off.
Fellow Muslim citizens and MKs supported Steinitz’s position, as Friday is the Muslim day of rest. Many argue that this would make more sense than Shalom’s idea as Islam is Israel’s second largest religion and it would thus accommodate a more diverse population.
“Israel is in the Middle East, not Europe. We see this proposal as political and nonsensical,” said United Arab MK Taleb a-Sanaa. “It’s part of this government’s attempt to harm everything connected to the Arab population in Israel.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed Eugene Kandel, head of the National Economic Council, to look into the implications of Shalom’s proposal.