Monday, May 7, 2012

Starting a Campaign for Public Holidays in Israel

I started writing this piece the day before Bibi surprised us all by canceling elections, that he had originally surprised us by almost announcing ! I know Israel faces existential threats to it's existence; divisions in society between Jew & Arab, ultra orthodox & secular (Tal Law); a flawed education system and harsh cost of living costs for our income levels, but I'd like to add a vital item to the list of priority issues facing the next Israeli government: public holidays ! One virtually universal reaction I've heard to Bibi's new unity government is "oh no...what about our election day public holiday???" !!

Trivial? Perhaps not life & death, but in terms of quality of life I'd say essential! We must be one of the only western countries that does not have a true weekend, with with many people working 5.5 to 6 days per week (not to mention several weeks reserve army duty each year as well). This long working week is tough for everyone, particularly for religious Jews such as myself, because Friday (if we even have it off work, which my wife for example does not) is about preparing for Shabbat, and Shabbat itself while a wonderful experience, doesn't readily allow us to do leisure activity or even spend the kind of quality time with our kids we'd like to enjoy, because Shabbat & erev Shabbat is all about cooking, cleaning, guests, synagogue, etc.

To be honest, my long term goal is not a fewextra public holidays, but to see a Sunday weekend law passed in Israel, however being realistic, that's probably a few years off, so what about quarterly public holidays? Yom Haatsmaut in the Spring is the sole one that exists now, so I'm talking adding just 3 days a year! Three days when parents can have some quality time with their kids, when families can enjoy a long weekend, and when leisure enterprises from hotels to garden centers can do some bumper business! Make them a Thursday or Sunday and we can have a long weekend option. These days would not be a drain on the economy, far from it, as they provide a boost to local tourism, and business such as garden centers, BBQ suppliers, and so on.

At this point you might be agreeing with me in principle, thinking to yourself that this is a very nice idea, but not exactly the necessity I described in the opening sentences. Well I disagree: The stress levels in this country are palpable and families are suffering. I know very few Israelis that don't struggle to make ends meet with both parents working long hard weeks, and for what? To not have time to be with their kids? Lets make this a priority for our new unity government, lets write to Knesset members, set up Facebook groups, and contact the media. So come on Bibi - give us a Ben Gurion day or make Herzl day (which already exists on the calendar) into a real holiday, for the sake of our national mental health and our families!

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