The Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) announced on Sunday that it will support a proposal to extend the weekend past Shabbat into Sunday, creating a five-day work week.
While a shorter work week in many Western industrialized nations is nothing new, in Israel the six-day work week is a standard because Sunday is the Christian day of rest and Saturday the day for catching up with errands. For years, lawmakers have argued over whether to shorten Israel's work week in line with Western countries, with Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom one of the prime advocates of the idea.
A proposal by Shalom to introduce a five-day work week and give Israelis Sundays off was sent for discussion to a committee several months ago but has not progressed since. With a new elected Knesset to be officially sworn in on Tuesday, the idea may be resurrected.
Bayit Yehudi MK-elect Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan told Arutz Sheva that his party supports the idea of a five-day work week because it would encourage Israelis to observe Shabbat. Under the current situation, many Israelis take advantage of Shabbat, their only day off, to go shopping and perform other tasks that violate the holiness of the Sabbath. Giving them Sunday off would allow them to do all those things on Sunday, leaving Shabbat to be observed the way it was meant to be. One of the ways manage this would be to add an hour to the workday on the other five days.
“There is no doubt that in recent years, the Sabbath has become the national shopping day,” said Rabbi Ben-Dahan. “Many shopping centers have opened and some even state that 50% of their weekly proceeds are made during the Sabbath.”
Most cities have bylaws that keep retail shops and malls closed on the Sabbath, but kibbutzim, who are under their own jurisdiction, used that loophole to build large shopping centers on agricultural land which are open and teeming with customers on Shabbat.
“As a religious party, we are obligated to ensure that the Sabbath is respected, and therefore we will make every effort to advance the idea that Sunday will be the day of rest, so that the shopping centers will be closed on Sabbath, and Sunday will be a day on which people can shop as much as they want, and the Sabbath will be honored, with G-d's help,” he added.
Gil Ronen contributed to this article.