Naftali Bennett
Naftali BennettIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett has revealed an initiative that would give Israelis a long weekend several times a year.

A committee in his office is examining the option of occasional long weekends that would give parents time off work during children’s vacation days from school, Bennett revealed on Facebook.

He explained why he is looking for a compromise between the current system, where Saturday is the national day off and many Israelis have Fridays off as well, and proposals to institute a Saturday-Sunday weekend such as that in place in America and Europe.

“Everyone who has lived abroad for a few years and comes back to Israel misses Sunday,” Bennett wrote. “Friday in Israel isn’t the same thing. It’s mostly a day of preparations.”

Many Jewish Israelis use Friday to prepare for the Sabbath. Jewish law (halakha) prohibits cooking and many other forms of labor on the holy day.

“On the other hand, we cannot just cancel an entire workday,” Bennett continued. “And there are significant problems with making Friday a half day of work (low productivity, huge traffic jams on Friday afternoons, and more).”

“As a former CEO in hi-tech, losing an entire day of work would have been a death blow to my company,” he said, adding, “That’s why the whole issue has been stuck in place for years.”

The new initiative would give Israelis several long weekends (Friday-Sunday) each year, around children’s vacations from school. The initiative was the brainchild of Minister Silvan Shalom and Economic Council Chairman Eugene Kandel, Bennett said.

Among other things, the committee is looking into the issue of implementation. “Something like this requires close coordination between the Education Ministry, the Histadrut labor federation and employers’ organizations,” Bennett noted.

Bennett’s party, Jewish Home, has expressed support for including Sunday in the weekend. While Friday is often used for Sabbath preparations, Jewish Home MKs have argued that making Sunday the second weekend day would make Israelis more likely to keep the Sabbath.

Many Israelis currently use the Sabbath to do their shopping and other tasks that violate the holiness of the Sabbath, Jewish Home MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan has argued.

Redefining the weekend to include Sunday rather than Friday would also impact non-Jewish Israelis. Opponents of the plan say it would be bad for Israel’s large Muslim minority, which celebrates Friday as the day of rest.