Will Sunday become part of the Israeli weekend?

Vice Premier Shalom decides to launch a campaign on issue; says move "would cause a revolution" as people will receive more leisure, rest time.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
March 4, 2011 03:21
2 minute read.
Students studying on grass in Jerusalem

Students studying on grass 521. (photo credit: marc israel sellem)

A decade’s worth of efforts to push the government to make Sunday a day off were renewed over the past two weeks after Vice Premier Silvan Shalom decided to begin a campaign on the issue.

Shalom has already discussed the issue with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and Histadrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini, as well as representatives of haredi parties. His associates said Thursday that he would soon take additional steps as the effort regained momentum.

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As finance minister in 2002, Shalom tried to begin the process of making Sunday a day off by attempting to stop the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange from trading on Sundays. The Stock Exchange leadership agreed, but the plan was shelved when Netanyahu replaced Shalom in the Finance Ministry.

“This would cause a revolution in Israel,” Shalom said in a statement released Thursday. “This would make our country more normal, give people more leisure and allow them to return to the work week on Monday a lot more rested.”

Making Sunday a day off was a central part of the Israel Ba’aliya Party’s platform that aimed to attract English-speakers in 2003, when the party won just two seats. The National Religious Party then made the issue a condition for joining the coalition.

Habayit Hayehudi MK Zevulun Orlev has repeatedly proposed the bill.

The current coalition agreement requires that the issue be advanced, but only one meeting has been held on the subject since the government was formed two years ago.

Over the past two weeks, an online petition drive has begun and two Facebook groups have been formed.

According to the proposal, Saturdays and Sundays would be designated as days of rest. Work hours would be slightly extended during the week and on Fridays to make up for lost work time.

Backers of the idea are convinced that having a two-day weekend would help the Israeli economy, give families more leisure time together, and make Israeli society less stressful.

It would especially help Shabbat-observers, who currently do not have a full day that they can travel without missing work or school.

Opponents are worried that the measure would cause severe damage to the economy. Political officials said that passing such a proposal in the current government would be very difficult.


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