Why Was This Passover Different?

Until a few years ago, only senior staff enjoyed a full week off during Passover, the rest worked; now, almost no one works on Passover.

It was 8:30 P.M., and everyone was antsy. Why weren't Aunt Hannah and Uncle Sigmund here yet? How hard was it to get from north Tel Aviv to Shikun Dan? Then the phone rang, and Aunt Hannah announced they were not coming. What happened? "We couldn't find a cab. No taxi service is answering the phone." There was no choice. Itzik rallied to the cause, took the car and picked up the aunt and uncle. Finally, we would be able to read the Haggadah.

Once, just a few years ago, this could not have happened. Then, there were always enough cab drivers who wanted to work on the Seder night for the extra income of the holiday rate. Now, the drivers are not willing to sacrifice family for the sake of work.

It's not only the taxi drivers who have changed. Until a few years ago, only the senior bank and insurance company staff enjoyed a full week off during Passover. The rest worked, sometimes half a day. But now, almost no one works on Passover. Try going to south Tel Aviv, an area full of workshops and lunch joints. Carpenters, garages and small businesses - everything is closed. Even the self-employed, not just the salaried staff at the big firms, want a holiday on Passover. This year, everyone prefers vacation over work.

A conversation with Dr. Leonid Eidelman, chairman of the Israel Medical Association, which is now engaged in a struggle to raise physicians' pay, shows that the doctors, too, have changed. Medical school graduates are no longer willing to specialize in difficult and demanding professions like surgery. They prefer the easier specializations, calling for fewer hours and shifts, like ophthalmology and plastic surgery. Yes, doctors also want more leisure and less work.

The change can also be seen among young fathers. A decade or two ago, no man would have dreamed of taking time off to be with the newborn. Now it's happening. Nor do men hesitate to leave work early to pick up children from day care and stay home with them. They really do not want to copy the failed model of their fathers, who now regret missing out watching their children grow. Because work came first.

Fathers and mothers are now far more involved in their children's lives than they used to be. They are involved in what takes place at the kindergarten and at school. They spend more time with their children. They go on trips in the country, and take vacations abroad. They join them on Friday for outings and restaurants. Once, they just worked - on Fridays, too.

"Generation Y, people up to age 30, are completely different from their parents," says Professor Dahlia Moore, who heads the Behavioral Science Department at the College of Management. "Work is not the focus of their lives, and they find time for entertainment and family. It's not because they do not want money, but because they are not willing to become enslaved by it. Contrary to the previous generation, they are simply not addicted to work."

Statistics show that over the past 20 years, we have started working fewer hours and earning more. The average salary is now NIS 8,777 a month, which is 25 percent higher in real terms than the average salary 20 years ago. Meanwhile, the work week is 1.5 hours shorter - 38.8 hours, down from 40.4.

Moreover, it turns out that we embarked on a long buying spree during those 20 years. Eighty percent of families now have an air conditioner, compared to 30 percent 20 years ago. Sixty percent have a car, compared to 30 percent two decades ago, and 92 percent have a cell phone. Twenty years ago, apartments had an average of 3.2 rooms; now the average apartment has 4.1 rooms.

What enabled all these good things was economic growth, which stems from investment, privatization, modernization and greater productivity. Growth is what enables us to work fewer hours, have more hours of free time and also improve our quality of life.

What about Aunt Hannah and Uncle Sigmund? At the end of the Seder, they announced that they had decided to join the trend and buy a car. Aren't they also entitled?