For years, one of the hardest things to get used to in Israel as a new immigrant was working Sundays. In fairness, when I made Aliyah back in 1988, we worked Fridays as well, something that thankfully changed in the early 1990s. But after all these years, I have yet to get used to not having a normal weekend and after spending two years in New York on shlichut, it wasn’t any easier to give up Sundays and get used to it all over again.
I have never understood the logic for not having Sunday as a day off. After all, the business community loses millions of dollars; In Israel we work on Sundays when our business partners around the world are not working. We are off on Fridays when the rest of the world is working. That doesn’t make any business sense.
I have always wondered if it is a religious issue, a fear of not being able to get home early for Shabbat. As I’m sure most religious people who live in Jewish communities in New York, London, and elsewhere will testify, they never have missed Shabbat just because they work on Friday. OK, they may need to leave a bit early in the winter months, but they more than make up for it during the week. And let’s face it, the people who suffer the most in Israel due to the current arrangement are religious people who in essence don’t have a weekend. Fridays invariably are spent cleaning the house and getting ready for Shabbat. Which means that other than on vacation, the only free time during the year to go out and travel around our beautiful country is on Yom Haazmaut, along with everyone else in the country. Imagine if we were able to do this throughout the year? Isn’t that what weekends are for?
Just think of the benefits of not working Sundays… Saturday night would be a real free night, not just another night before a workday. The entertainment industry could grow dramatically as people could go to shows, amusement parks and ball games on Sundays. National parks
and other sites of interest would attract visitors year-round. Having Sundays free would be a day to really relax and have fun. It would relieve tension in one of the most tense countries in the world… The list goes on.
If I understand it right, among the major fears for exchanging Sunday with Friday are that people still won’t work on Fridays effectively creating a four day work week. Also, there is a fear that parents would have to deal with their kids on Sundays (G-d forbid..). Under the arrangement today, kids go to school on Fridays giving parents some time to themselves.
Personally, I don’t think either argument makes much sense. Certainly these arguments don’t hold much weight outside of our borders. Why not have real family days to go out and have fun together? Shabbat is indeed a family day but let’s be fair, you can’t do very much if you are observant and it’s much more of a spiritual than fun type of day. As for exchanging Sunday for Friday in terms of work hours, you can add hours to the work-week to make this viable.
This seems to be the direction of the current momentum to have a pilot program of one Sunday a month being a day off. The understanding of the need to make this change seems to be taking root. I, at least, want to hope that the pilot program and then a full move to a Sunday off instead of Friday is implemented. And the sooner, the better. I’m convinced it will have a very positive effect on our lives.