An Urgent Need to Balance Parent and Children Vacations

We are celebrating Lag BaOmer today, but instead of collecting wood with the kids and preparing potatoes to roast, we are worried about something else: How will we handle the 2-day vacation that has been imposed on us during this busy month that already has so many days off?

Let me be clear: As parents, we love spending vacation days with our children. Yom HaAtzmaut, for example, was a pleasure. Our family spent the day together, hiking, picnicking, and meeting friends. We even had time to discuss Israel’s founding and study the Declaration of Independence. In other words, it was an opportunity for family bonding, which is the perfect way to re-charge.

But then there are days when our children are on vacation and we are not. What makes this so difficult, if not impossible, is that instead of spending time with them, we’re busy finding arrangements for them. In the best case scenario, the grandparents come over. Less ideal is finding a babysitter, but the worse case scenario is becoming increasingly common: leaving the children at home while the parents go to work. Why? Because parents don’t have enough vacation days.

Do the math, it’s simple: The law requires that employees be given two weeks of vacation per year (in addition to the Jewish holidays). On the other hand, our children have 76 additional vacation days. They may sound impossible, but it is the truth.

So how have we coped until now? Why has it suddenly become so difficult?

The answer is also simple:

In recent years, the nature of employment has drastically changed. It is no longer possible to support a family with one paycheck. To make ends meet and advance, both parents must work. In addition, many grandparents are busy, and may also still work. They aren’t necessarily free to watch the grandchildren.

But employment has undergone an additional change: our generation has less vacation days than our parents. Why? Because people used to stay at one job for decades, while today many people change jobs every three years. This greatly impacts our number of vacation days, since the law requires giving employees 10-14 vacation days during the first four years of their employment. In the fifth year, employees begin accumulating two additional vacation days per year. As young parent employees, it seems that we will never have enough days off.

Despite these drastic changes, the number of vacation days for children and adults has stayed the same. This creates an intolerable tension between wanting to spend time with our children and needing to provide for them.

Minister of Education Shai Piron should take initiative and form a joint commission with the Ministries of Education and Finance, to look for creative ways to balance the children’s and parents’ vacation days. Such solutions exist; there are parents advocating making Friday a day off, and using these days to shorten vacations, while the Slavin Commission suggested shortening the summer vacation by one month.

Two years ago, young families took to the streets. Their protests resulted in free education from age 3 and subsidized after-school programs. Don’t make us take to the streets again this summer.

About the Author
Rachel Azaria is Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, holding the education portfolio and women's rights portfolio. Azaria earned a BA in psychology and MA in conflict resolution, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. An alumna of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership, Azaria served as the CEO of Mavoi Satum, a non-profit organization helping women denied a get (Jewish divorce) by their husbands. Azaria was first elected to the city council in 2008, and held the Early Childhood Education and Community Councils portfolios in her first term. In 2013 she was reelected and appointed deputy mayor. The Yerushalmim Party, that she chairs, doubled itself in the recent elections. She is an active leader of the struggle against the exclusion of women from the Israeli public sphere, and gained international recognition as a leading orthodox feminist. She lives in the Katamonim (Gonenim) district of Jerusalem with her husband and their four children.