Israel’s Justice Minister Pushes to Make Sunday a Day Off

Those who work will contribute to the economy even if it’s five days a week, Tzipi Livni says.


A day after being criticized for refusing to support a bill allowing limited public transportation on Saturdays, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said she would join a bid to make Sunday a day off.

Currently, many Israelis work six-day weeks, Sunday through Friday, before the Sabbath starts that evening.

“Some will say this will reduce the marginal productivity of a worker who must work more hours a day. But we are determined and we will find solutions,” Livni said Monday. “We already have those who work, and those who [just] come to work. Those who come to work will continue, and those who work will work and contribute to the economy even if it’s five days a week. We are a diligent people.”

Livni was speaking at a conference on “Shabbat in the Public Square” organized by opposition leader Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog, MK Elazar Stern (Hatnuah) and MK Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid). During the discussions, Herzog criticized Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who on Sunday refused to approve a Tel Aviv bylaw that would let grocery stores open on Saturdays.

“In Tel Aviv, the status quo of live and let live has been maintained nicely for decades,” Herzog said. “Mayor Ron Huldai and the city council had agreed on a plan that suits Tel Aviv’s special character, so the interior minister should rely on them and allow them to implement it.”

Calderon called for more funds for supporting Shabbat programs for secular people. “Public spending on religious services in Israel in 2012 totaled 3.7 billion shekels [$1.1 billion],” she said.

“It’s possible to divert some of this money to initiatives suitable for people who don’t follow Jewish law. The government and local authorities are not budgetary partners to community efforts to create a meaningful Sabbath.”

Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom already seeks to make Sunday a day off.

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation dropped a bill to let local authorities operate limited public transportation on Saturdays.Three ministers from the centrist Yesh Atid party – Yair Lapid, Yael German and Jacob Perry – supported the legislation, but Likud’s Limor Livnat as well as Uri Orbach and Uri Ariel of Habayit Hayehudi opposed it.

Livni, who chairs the committee, decided the matter by refusing to vote. Livni explained that while she believed that public transportation should be available on Shabbat so that all people could reach leisure spots, she thought the proposal, submitted by MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), was too sweeping.

Meretz, a left-leaning party, countered that the bill could have been used as a basis to operate public transportation in a way that reflected Livni’s views.

“The bill provides for changes in the Shabbat lines – to change routes, to reduce frequency – anything that’s desirable to uphold the character of Shabbat and not disturb anyone,” Horowitz said. “If she wants transportation on Shabbat, why doesn’t she do anything about it?”