Debate: Do You Want Sunday's Off in Israel ?
I doubt that this article is going to win me any friends, and in fact I might lose those that I already have, but I am going to speak my mind anyway: I am adamantly against making Sunday another day off here in Israel. Another day off? Yes, that’s not a typo.
We do have a day off here in Israel, it’s called Shabbat, Saturday. In fact most have another day off, and that’s call Friday. Those in the retail industry who are forced to work on Friday’s mornings, they might not have two days off, but they do have one-and-a-half.
According to recent reports, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom’s proposal to make Sunday another day off is gaining steam throughout the Knesset. There is even a Knesset committee, which has been formed to explore the initiative. And I even remember that Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharanksy has always supported Sunday’s off and included that concept as one of the central pillars in his Yisrael Be’Aliya’s party platform in 2003.
But despite the momentum, let me put a stick in those spokes.
First there are the economics of it all, and while I’m no expert, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if our markets are only opened four days a week, our country is going to suffer.
Colunmist Caroline Glick agrees. She said that “Assuming the government does not bend to populist pressure and take economically hazardous steps like reducing the work week to four days, Israel’s economy is likely to remain one of the country’s most valuable strategic assets.” Do we really want to tamper with the economy at this juncture with so many other nations particularly the United States still reeling from recession? If the economy isn’t broken, there is no reason to go and break it.
Another argument for Sunday’s off is the social aspect. Those in favor a day off, argue that there is never time to go out to the mall, the movies, or get together with family and friends. If that’s true, why can’t I ever find a parking spot at the mall during the week? Somehow Israelis still manage to find time for shopping and recreation without a designated day for doing so. In addition, Israel’s beaches seem to be packed with family bathers on Friday. There is plenty of time in the day on Friday during the warmer months to work half a day, for the children to go to school, and still get to the beach for the majority of the afternoon and make it home in time for Shabbat.
Even for those who live in the Jerusalem-area, away from the coast, the closest beach is less than an hour away. I know this for a fact because between May and September, there is only once place you’ll find me on Friday afternoons, and that’s the beach.
In terms of religion, those who favor Sundays off argue that another day off would create more interaction between observant and secular Israelis. I ask why can’t Israelis from all walks of life interact more during the week? Does there have to be a special day, designated for us to ‘all get along?’ Does such interaction have to happen only at the Luna Park or the zoo? Just because Sunday is a day off, will Avner from Hevron be inspired to call his cousin Noam from North Tel Aviv to meet up for some tennis? If it isn’t already happening, unfortunately I don’t think it will start because of this.
Also, in regard to religion, why isn’t Shabbat itself enough to serve as a true day of rest? Shabbat can be a valid option for both the religious and secular Israelis to sleep more, eat well, and catch up with family and friends. With Friday as my promoted beach day of choice, Shabbat can be an enjoyable experience at home no matter where you are religiously.
At the same time proponents suggest transforming Israel’s Saturday soccer culture into a Sunday tradition. But why not just move the games to Saturday night where people can still experience the best in professional Israeli sports without having to violate Shabbat or take another day off? Youth leagues can also schedule their matches to either Saturday night, or to other nights during the week. There isn’t an official soccer regulation out there requiring games to take place only Saturday afternoons only.
And finally practically speaking, as someone who grew up in the Untied States and moved to Israel as an adult, I find myself utterly bored on Sunday’s when I visit America. It seems that everyone is either shopping at Target, transporting children back and forth between birthday parties, or wasting the entire day in a reclined position, numbly starting at the idiot box television. That hardly seems like a truly meaningful family day experience to me.
For these and other reasons as to why Sunday off is a bad idea including: a potential increase in traffic related deaths on the roads, children getting into trouble on the streets wandering aimlessly with nothing to do, parents becoming even more agitated figuring out creative ways to entertain their children when the goal was supposed to be a day of relaxation, etc. my vote is to maintain the status quo.
If you have issues with my opinion talk to me at the beach this Friday--or write Arutz Sheva.