Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom’s efforts to extend work weekends in Israel to Sundays received a major boost Monday when Justice Minister Tzipi Livni endorsed the initiative.

Livni called Shalom to offer her full support before telling her faction at the Knesset that she had decided to back the effort in order to improve relations between secular and religiously observant people.

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Her announcement came amid battles between politicians over opening stores and providing public transportation on Shabbat.

“There has been much debate lately between fervently secular and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) people,” Livni said. “Instead of focusing on conflict, I decided to focus on something that unites: Long weekends. It would connect us to our traditions and allow people to enjoy a day of vacation with their families. We are no less hard-working than other nations that have two-day weekends. I know there will be those who have problems and difficulties with it, but I think it could provide holistic solutions to the problems in Israeli society.”

Livni vowed to take steps to push the required legislation forward. As the head of the ministerial committee on legislation, her support is critical for the initiative’s advancement.

Officials involved in efforts to extend the weekend 10 years ago said Livni had not been so helpful back then. But her associates said she had never opposed the idea and had not changed her mind.

Shalom issued a statement saying he was happy she had joined the effort, which he has been advancing for the past five years. He has been working with Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett and Education Minister Shai Piron on possible pilot programs.

Bennett’s ministry has been pushing a proposal to have six long weekends a year and replace lost workdays on days that are currently school vacation days.

Other pilot proposals also exist.

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