Any Given Sunday? Israel Mulling Changes to Working Week

Ministers hope initiative to synch Israeli workweek with commercial standards in the rest of the world will boost economy and free up mothers to work full time.

The Israeli government is planning to designate the first Sunday of each month a holiday and the preceding Friday a full work day for a trial period of one year to see how synching the Israeli workweek with commercial standards in the rest of the world could benefit the economy.

"It will bring about a dramatic change … It will connect us to the rest of the world, [boosting] trade and tourism," said Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom, who is spearheading the initiative.

One alteration to the workweek that might boost the Israeli economy, according to Shalom, involves women's position in the work force. Under the new arrangement, school days Monday through Thursday would be prolonged by two hours, which should free up more women to participate in the work force full-time.

To fully implement the proposal, Shalom's ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office will put together a joint team, including Harel Locker, PMO director general, Orna Hozman Bechor, director general of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, and Eugene Kandel, head of the National Economic Council.

Initially, in a meeting with PMO representatives, Shalom had proposed making every Sunday a day off, turning Saturdays and Sundays into the standard weekend, but Kandel offered a competing proposal designating only four Sundays a year public holidays.

After Kandel's objection, the two parties compromised, ultimately agreeing on one Sunday off each month and setting a year-long trial period to evaluate the initiative's effect on the Israeli economy, according to a source present at the meeting.

The move enjoys widespread support within the coalition, including key members such as Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Education Minister Shay Piron, inside sources told Haaretz. Finance Minister Yair Lapid, like his predecessor, reportedly does not oppose the move.

The heads of several Knesset factions said they would introduce their own legislation directly to Knesset if the government failed to advance the process.

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Olivier Fitoussi