From Next Year, Independence Day May Launch Long Weekend

Proposal to move national holiday to Thursday expected to become law after the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided that the coalition will support the bill.

Independence Day will soon herald a long holiday weekend, instead of falling on a different day of the week each year, depending on its Hebrew date.

The holiday will still be celebrated the week of 5 Iyar, the Hebrew anniversary of the day the State of Israel declared its independence; but a bill under consideration proposes to hold the celebration on the Thursday of that week from now on.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided on Sunday that the coalition will support the bill, meaning that it can be expected to pass.

"The goal of the bill is to allow bereaved families to plan and prepare for the events of Memorial Day and Independence Day with the greatest possible ease, to get the most out of the workweek and to avoid desecrating Shabbat," said the bill's sponsor, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov.

If the Knesset agrees to set Thursday as the allotted day for Independence Day, Memorial Day will be held the Wednesday of the same week.

The 1949 Independence Day Law states that Independence Day will take place on 5 Iyar every year. In practice, though, the law has been changed several times to accommodate different variations in the calendar. For example, MK Lia Shemtov (Yisrael Beiteinu) noted that the date has been changed to avoid the public desecration of Shabbat.

As it stands now, if 5 Iyar falls on a Friday or Saturday, it is celebrated on the preceding Thursday. And if the holiday falls on a Monday, it is moved up to Tuesday, and Memorial Day, which is commemorated the day before Independence Day, is moved to Monday. This prevents preparations for Memorial Day eve ceremonies from beginning on Shabbat.

Flag procession in Jerusalem 2011
Daniel Bar-On