Sunday morning feeling

The country needs to work on getting a weekend worthy of its name.

Golf (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
It has been said before: There are not enough days in the weekend.
More than 30 years after I left London, memories of weekends – when they were really worthy of the name – came pleasantly to mind last week as a proposal to make Sunday a day off was again discussed in the corridors of power. This time, the suggestion came from Vice Premier Silvan Shalom.
Even people who love their jobs can appreciate taking a decent break from it once in a while – say, every Saturday and Sunday.
The Protestant work ethic sounds foreign in the Jewish state, but most Israelis labor hard and long to bring home the bacon (or at least to be able to afford the rising cost of cottage cheese).
Last October, the French rioted in true style against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise their retirement age to 62 – even though it wouldn’t require them to work more than 35 hours a week or stop them from taking vacation for all of August and more. At the same time, in Israel, people whose jobs were threatened were rallying for their right to work.
Vive la différence! As I noted at the time, “I’d be satisfied if Israel could finally officially move over to a five-day week.”
In fact, on a yearly basis, we spend many more hours at our jobs compared to our Western counterparts. I, for one, am tired of it.
What has become known as The Start-up Nation (courtesy of the book by Dan Senor and Saul Singer) has come up with incredibly creative solutions to global problems. It’s about time we figured out how to have a rest. It doesn’t require reinventing the wheel.
Just ask Shalom (who is, incidentally, known as a hardworking minister).
Having Saturdays off is divine; having Sundays off would be human.
The whole country could benefit from an extra day of rest, and particularly recreation.
Nobody would benefit more than the religious sector, which does not travel or spend money on Shabbat. What’s the point of having a long Mediterranean coast if you can’t get to the beach during a heat wave? Sundays would provide us with a day to do all the things we otherwise rarely get to do: hike, meet friends further than walking distance away, watch a movie and so on.
It’s not only the religious who would gain by having an extra day in which to do something (or nothing, if you prefer). With a long weekend, traditional Jews would find it easier to keep Shabbat with its spiritual boost and then enjoy less sacred pursuits the following day.
Muslim and Christian communities, too, would benefit (despite the knee-jerk protests of Arab MKs) and with three communities rotating their rest days, we should be able to get a great deal done.
Finally, we could be in line with the developed world instead of having the Monday morning blues a day ahead of everyone.
It’s not that nobody’s thought of Sundays off before.
The idea of shortening the work week has been promoted in the past by Natan Sharansky and Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, which makes me particularly proud of how I spent the vast majority of Sunday afternoons in my youth – campaigning for the release of Soviet Jewry. It has also periodically been raised by various members of the National Religious Party, including Zevulun Orlev, Nahum Langental and Shaul Yahalom.
One of the sticking points is how to work out such a change: Whether finally having a weekend would mean giving up Fridays – which for most of the country is already a day or half-day off – and whether it would result in having to work an extra hour during the remaining work days (which for those working a nine-hour day would eat up any benefit.) Those in favor believe that a proper weekend would help the country develop better recreation facilities – anyone for tennis? – which would in itself stimulate employment opportunities and circulation of wealth.
A foreign colleague once asked me why Israelis don’t play golf. It took me a while to figure out the answer is probably that they’re too busy with work and reserve duty (but at least the clubs welcome Jews).
Sundays would also mean that most football matches and other sport competitions could be moved from Shabbat, which has got to be healthy.
The doomsayers predict that if Israel has Sundays off, nothing will get done. They quote variations of the reputed response prime minister Levi Eshkol gave when asked about a five-day work week: First let Israel have a two-day work week, then a three-day, and four-day work week, and we’ll take it to five from there.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week appointed a committee to examine the latest proposal, or more to the point, proposals: Shalom’s suggestion for Sundays off, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz’s idea of getting rid of the Friday half-day of work, and a proposal by Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to maintain the status quo.
Given that Shalom does not hide the fact that he would like the 24/7 job of prime minister in the future (giving Netanyahu little incentive to help him with popular legislation), it is likely that this time, too, the proposal will remain nothing more than a sweet dream, the sort you have shortly before the alarm goes off on a workday.
A committee means it won’t happen. Not in a month of Sundays.