In order for the Israeli society to enjoy a proper family life and to preserve the family unit, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai proposed at Wednesday's Caesarea Forum to make Friday a full day of rest, or a "Yom Shabbaton," as opposed to the current situation in which many Israelis work on that day.
"We don't always need to look at what happens in the world. There are people who work on Shabbat and can't spend quality time with their families," said Yishai, speaking as part of the panel "Economic Ramifications of a Second Day of Rest."
"If we really want to shorten the working week, the only option is to cancel Friday completely as a working day, so everyone can get shopping done and then secular Jews can go to the beach on Saturday."
Yishai added that the government should stop "forcing" people to work on Shabbat and let them preserve and enjoy family life - not, he said, because of religious reasons, but for humane reasons.
"There are people who are working on Saturday and therefore do not have family days," said Yishai. "At the same time, trying to change Sunday into a day of rest, as has been suggested, will be extremely difficult and is not realistic."
MK and former finance minister Silvan Shalom, also speaking on the panel, countered that if Israel wants to be part of the global work schedule, "we need to turn Sunday into a day of rest and work on Friday as we did years ago."
Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers' Association, warned however, that changing the working week into a 4.5-day week by adopting Sunday as an additional day of rest would cost the economy NIS 23.8 billion a year, of which NIS 6b. would be lost from the manufacturing industry. Moreover, according to estimates from the Manufacturers' Association, a shorter week would leave an additional 40,000 people unemployed.
"To be connected with the rest of the world we need the ports to work at least six or even seven days, and the same applies to transport services. Anything other than this would cause great damage to the economy," said Brosh.
Similarly, Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, said that turning Sunday into another day of rest and Friday into a working day was not realistic for Israeli society and would shorten the working week into a 4.5- or 4-day week, costing the economy NIS 30b. a year.
"Friday for secular or religious Jews has a value in Israeli society, which is a sentiment which is respected," said Lynn. "As such, the weekend of two days, which is the norm everywhere in the world, being Saturday and Sunday, is not a realistic alternative for Israeli society."