Published in The Jerusalem Post, April 19, 2013
In lieu of Sundays, Israel should mandate one long weekend each month by occasionally making Thursday into a civic holiday. Yom Haatzmaut should always be on a Thursday, as should Yom Yerushalayim. Also new civic holidays like Balfour Declaration Day, David Ben-Gurion’s Birthday, Teddy Kollek Memorial Day, and Shimon Peres New Middle East Day.
There is one thing about life in the Diaspora that just about every Anglo immigrant to this country misses: Sunday as a vacation day.
Unfortunately, we’re not going to get “Sundays” here in Israel any time soon. Vested industry and labor interests, along with officials of the finance ministry, always have colluded to kill efforts to make Sunday a vacation day.
Natan Sharansky (when he was Minister of Industry and Trade), and Silvan Shalom (when he was Deputy Prime Minister), both tried and failed to set Sundays as a day off. Naftali Bennett, the new Economics Minister, recently talked about Sundays-off too, but the idea stands no chance.
And yet, we have to do something to create more leisure time! Everybody in Israel works at three or more jobs, around-the-clock, all-the-time, just to make ends meet. Shabbat creates a serene, spiritual rest space, but for the traditional public it doesn’t allow for sports, travel, and entertainment; and even for the non-Orthodox public, it’s just not enough. This intense country needs more time to chill-out.
My solution is: The Once-a-Month-Long-Weekend. This is the perfect construct for a revolution in Israeli civic holidays. In lieu of Sundays, we should mandate one long weekend each month by taking a Thursday off. This would be similar to the US and Canada, where they take Mondays off once a month.
Former Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov was on to this when he proposed to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation last year that Independence Day always be celebrated on a Thursday, instead of falling on a different day of the week each year. He sought to create a four-day Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut weekend, Wednesday through Saturday – which is way it worked out so wonderfully in 2012.
We already monkey with the dates of Remembrance and Independence days by moving them forward to avoid Shabbat violations (from Sunday-Monday to Monday-Tuesday, as we did this year). So why not go one step further? Why not mark them every year on a Wednesday and Thursday?
I’m now suggesting that we should mark all modern commemorations as civic holidays on a Thursday. For example, Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Liberation Day) falls three weeks from now on a Wednesday. At present, it’s not a mandatory civic holiday, and as a result nobody pays any attention to it except for Religious Zionist school kids and Hesder yeshiva boys.
But were Yom Yerushalayim to be celebrated as a set civic holiday on Thursday at the opening of a long weekend, I bet that far more Israelis would take the opportunity to visit Jerusalem and celebrate its beauty and history.
At least seven months of the Hebrew calendar year – Cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shvat, Adar, Tammuz and Av – could use the addition of a long civic weekend. In fact, Thursday through Saturday weekends could be timed to mark minor and mostly-ignored Jewish holidays such as Chanuka, Tu BeShvat, and Purim. (Tishrei already has Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succot, Nissan has Pesach, and Sivan has Shavuot – so no additional holidays are necessary in these months).
We can make-up new civic holidays too, like Balfour Declaration Day, David Ben-Gurion’s Birthday, Teddy Kollek Memorial Day, Shimon Peres New Middle East Day, Reclaim the Galilee Day, Eurovision Day, and Maccabi Tel Aviv EuroLeague Cup Day.
This proposal involves practically no cost to the Israeli economy. The addition of one such vacation day per month several times a year amounts to about 15 extra minutes of work per day per employee. We can work that additional quarter hour easily, and will be a happier people in the process.
Israel needs more long weekends, and I don’t want to wait until next Yom Haatzmaut to get one. Will one of our new lawmakers please take up the legislative challenge now?