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