Justice Minister Tzipi Livni announced on Monday at the start of the weekly meeting of her Hatnua movement, that she intends to push forward a bill for establishing a two-day weekend in Israel, by making Sunday a free day, alongside the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday.
"We are in the midst of discourse that sometimes becomes very heated, between fervent hareidim and fervently secular people, and Hatnua – as always – represents the balance between the two sides of the equation of the Jewish and democratic state of Israel,” she said.
"In this debate about the Sabbath, also, I decided – instead of concentrating only on that day – to join an initiative that was once pushed by Minister Silvan Shalom, and which we will now push together – a long weekend.”
"In this way, it will be possible to respect the Sabbath in the state of Israel. This is not a favor to hareidim but really connects us to Jewish culture and Jewish tradition, and of course, at the same time, we will enable one non-holy day in which whoever wants to can be with his family, have fun and do whatever he wants.”
Regarding the possible decrease in productivity as a result of a long weekend, Livni was not worried: "We are no less industrious than the nations of the world that have two days of rest. It is true that matters are more complicated because of Friday [which is a half day in Israel, with the Sabbath beginning Friday evening – ed.]. I am not saying that this is devoid of difficulties.”
Livni said that while entertainment venues will remain open on Saturday, it will have a different character from Sunday. “One day will be a true day of rest, and at the same time there will be another day on which other things can be done. This has been suggested in the past and this time, there is an opportunity to do it.”
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which is headed by Livni, failed on Sunday to approve a bill proposed by Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, mandating the operation of public transport in Israel on the Sabbath. It was Livni's abstention that decided the vote, after three ministers from secularist Yesh Atid supported the bill versus two Jewish Home ministers and Likud-Beytenu's Limor Livnat who opposed it. Livni explained the abstention by saying that the bill is “too sweeping” in nature and that the operation of public transport on Sabbaths must be carried out gradually.
The decision by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation marks the fifth time it has shot down a proposal for operating public transport on Sabbaths, and the second time Horowitz's bill has suffered defeat there. The bill would have allowed local authorities to decide whether or not to allow public transport on Sabbaths within their territory. Horowitz called Sunday's vote “a capitulation to religious coercion.”