Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom’s dream of a Sunday off from work like they have in other Western countries may finally come true.
The senior Likud leader has been advocating the change in the Israeli work week for years, and now it looks like it might happen, along with a longer work day on Friday and a five-day school week with longer hours.
The issue of work hours on Friday could prove to be particularly difficult. At this juncture, the proposal calls for work missed on Sunday to be made up by working six hours on the Friday before the long weekend and an extra half-hour on other days. In practice, however, it could well pose problems for shomer Shabbos employees who need to return home early on Fridays, especially during the short winter afternoons.
There is also talk of moving Israeli soccer matches from Shabbos to Sunday to garner support from the religious sector.
“It will bring about a dramatic change… It will connect us to the rest of the world, [boosting] trade and tourism,” said Shalom, who was once more connected to the world when he served as Israel’s minister of foreign affairs.
At first, Shalom wanted to make every Sunday a day off, appending it to Shabbos to create a long weekend.
However, National Economic Council head Prof. Eugene Kandel objected, offering instead a scheme of only four Sundays a year alongside public holidays. Eventually they compromised, and now the plan calls for one Sunday off each month for a year-long trial period. Then they will evaluate the initiative’s effect on the Israeli economy, according to a source close to the discussions.
The idea reportedly enjoys widespread support within the coalition, including key members such as Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Education Minister Shay Piron, according to Haaretz.
To develop the plan, Shalom’s ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office will put together a joint team, including PMO director general Harel Locker, Orna Hozman-Bechor, director general of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galil, and Eugene Kandel.
Hozman-Bechor was optimistic that a bill could pass in the Cabinet and be implemented starting with the 2014-2015 school year.