silvan shalom 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom presented his plan to move the Israeli weekend to
Saturday and Sunday to business leaders in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
meeting with roughly 30 leaders from the business sector, hosted by the
Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, Shalom said that moving from a
Friday-Saturday weekend to a Saturday-Sunday weekend would bring Israel in line
with the world markets – and make it a better place to live.
Shalom plans meetings to draft long-weekend coalition
Will Sunday become part of the Israeli weekend?
enable us to become a more normal country,” he said. “This is something that’s
happening in a lot of countries around the world – and not just in the Christian
Many important countries have decided to move to Saturday and
Sunday out of the knowledge that it will expand their economic activity, expand
their accessibility to the world markets – and this has happened in not-so-small
countries [including] China, India, Japan [and] Singapore.”
He added, “On
Friday they [the rest of the world] work and we don’t – on Sunday they don’t
work and we do – and when we are disengaged for three days, then it interferes a
lot with exports, interferes a lot with the importers and of course interferes
with the stock market.”
Shalom repeatedly stressed that the plan would
not change the total amount of work hours. He said Israelis would continue to
work an average of 42.5 hours each week, compared to the European Union average
of 40, and to 35 hours in France.
Under his proposal, Friday would be a
shorter work day – to account for the beginning of Shabbat – and workers would
make up for those lost hours on Monday through Thursday.
Calling the plan
the impetus for a “social revolution,” Shalom spoke about his vision of Sunday
becoming a day for family and leisure activities, on which public transport and
shopping centers would operate.
He said he envisioned a full day for
holding professional sporting events, the opening of theaters and for conducting
“We today don’t have a weekend [for these
activities],” he said. “On Sunday, when everything is open, commerce will be
lively. Of course, people will be able to travel with public transport. It will
be possible to take daytrips. Whether it’s to come from the Galilee or the Negev
to Tel Aviv, or from Tel Aviv to the Galilee or the Negev, it will be possible
to conduct a suitably lengthy trip.”
The proposal was met with mixed
reactions from industry figures, which included the heads of Willi Food, the
Sakal Group, the Stier Group and leaders of local chambers of
While several said that they supported Shalom’s plan, others
criticized it, saying, among other things, that it would naturally lead to
workers expecting a decrease in the amount of work hours, and force businesses
to pay increased weekend rates to employees.
Shalom responded by saying
that there was no difference between Friday and Sunday – only that daily work
hours would be reallocated by making Sunday a weekend. He added that if
businesses did not currently pay employees weekend rates on Fridays, then those
same regulations would apply to Sundays.
Several of the business leaders
also said the plan would have a negative social impact because it would put more
pressure on lower-middle income families to fund their children’s increased
leisure time during daylight hours.
In response, Shalom said that Israel
is a free country, and that its citizens could not be told what to do with their
spare time. He conceded that people are naturally skeptical – but he believed
businesses, workers and the wider public would all eventually support the plan –
although it would take them time to get used to the changes once
Shalom added that he had already received a positive
reaction from members of Knesset and from other key decision-makers, including
Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini, who he said reacted with “deep
understanding” to his proposal.