New Bill to Make Sunday a Day Off in Israel

September 9, 2015  

Jewish Home party MK Yinon Magal has tabled a bill that would make Sunday an official day off in Israel, in a move that is likely to reignite debate over the somewhat controversial topic.

This is not the first time it has been suggested to extend the weekend to Sunday, with previous attempts being shot down by opponents who contend adding to the weekend would seriously harm the Israeli economy.

Currently, weekends in the Jewish state are from Friday-Saturday, the latter of which is the Jewish Sabbath. But while having Fridays off enables religiously-observant Jewish families to adequately prepare for Shabbat, it also means there is no “day off” as there is in other countries, since Shabbat-observant Jews are prohibited from performing many activities such as driving or otherwise traveling long distances, and spend Fridays preparing for Shabbat as opposed to spending time with their families.

Some have also argued that making Sunday a day off would boost the domestic tourism and leisure sector, with Shabbat-observant families freer to enjoy attractions throughout the country. Others have suggested it could even boost Shabbat observance among “traditional” Israelis, who would in theory observe the holy day if they had more time to engage in leisure activities on Sunday.

In a statement, Magal – who is a non-observant Jew – emphasized both the social and economic benefits of his bill, further noting it would provide “equality” between observant and non-observant Jews.

Addressing the question of how the lost working hours to the Israeli economy would be made up – given that observant Jews cannot practically work more than half a day on Fridays – Magal’s bill suggests half a days’-worth of hours be made up by extending working hours Monday-Thursday, with the remaining made up by a half-day on Fridays.

“In a state which sanctifies the Sabbath and limits public transportation and sporting events, it is important to advance a day-off on which no citizen feels that their freedom is limited,” Magal said.

Jewish Home Anglo Forum Chairman Jeremy Saltan praised the proposed bill.

“Many of us olim miss our Sundays off,” he said. “I want to thank Yinon for moving forward with this important issue. I think there is a real chance this time to get it done.”

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