Habayit Hayehudi Championing Adding Sunday to Israel's Weekend

Nafatali Bennett's national religious party is unexpectedly pushing to make Sunday an official day off for the sake of religious Israelis.

Haim Bior
Haim Bior
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Haim Bior
Haim Bior

The national religious political party Habayit Hayehudi is committed to making Sunday an official day off in Israel, even though its platform does not mention the issue.

Party chairman Naftali Bennett has already raised the subject in coalition talks with the Likud Yisrael Beiteinu alliance and there is no particular reason it was excluded from the platform, say party officials.

Extending the Israeli weekend through Sunday would make it easier to observe Shabbat on Saturday – when Orthodox Jews do not drive, engage in commerce or use electronics – because they would have another day for recreation and shopping, said a party official.

"Religious and traditional Jews will be able to watch soccer games, go shopping, see shows and take part in Israeli leisure culture," he said. "The fact that the religious population, which is generally busy with housework [to prepare for Shabbat], would be able to go shopping on Sunday is important."

Habayit Hayehudi's predecessor, The National Religious Party, also supported making Sunday part of the weekend.

Sunday is currently the first day of the workweek. On Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, there is no public transportation and most businesses do not operate. Friday is a day off for many workers and schools and stores generally close early.

Under Habayit Hayehudi's proposal – the details of which will be up for negotiation during coalition talks – schoolchildren would have Sunday off and would stay in school longer on other days of the week. The party says this would expand job options for their parents. Workplaces would be open for half the day on Friday – until noon in the winter and until 1 P.M. in the summer.

The Histadrut labor federation, whose support is seen as essential to the success of the Sunday proposal, has yet to announce its position. Manufacturers are expected to oppose it, since shutting down production on Sundays would cause significant losses.

Likud Beiteinu said it has not adopted a position on the proposal and that no agreement has been reached on it in coalition talks.

"The prime minister has not expressed opposition to the move, but he has not ruled it out," said a source familiar with the issue.

A committee led by Hebrew University economist Eugene Kandel – who heads the National Economic Council, an advisory body in the Prime Minister's Office – was supposed to have submitted its recommendations on the matter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz in July but has yet to do so. The committee was appointed in 2011, after Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom proposed making Sunday a day off.

It's important for religious Israelis to have time to shop, said a party official.Credit: Rami Chelouche

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