Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thank God it's Thursday

http://israel-like-this-as-if.blogspot.com/2007/06/thank-god-its-thursday.html

Today is the last Thursday in June, which means another White Night in Tel Aviv.

Like Paris, Rome, Madrid and a few other European capitals, our little Tel Aviv mounts a White Night festival once a year. Many of the city's cultural institutions and entertainment places will stay open all or most of the night. Among events scheduled for my neighborhood are dancing, jazz performances, and a post-midnight field trip to places connected with the unsolved 1933 murder of Zionist leader Haim Arlosoroff.

Tel Aviv's White Night festival began as a celebration of the city's selection in 2004 as a World Heritage Site of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Actually, UNESCO didn't select all of Tel Aviv but only the socalled "White City" of 1930s Bauhaus architecture.

To make the White Night festival legal, the city government amended its laws and allowed places of business to stay open beyond regular closing hours. This put the White Night festival on the same footing as Israel's two big celebration holidays, Independence Eve and Purim.

In its wisdom, the city government determined that the White Night festival will always take place on a Thursday night. The choice of Thursday night reflects a change that has come over the Israeli workplace in the last couple of decades. For many Israelis, there is no longer a need to get up for work on Friday morning. Friday, which used to be a day for working until early afternoon, has become the first half of the weekend for many, and an errand-running time for others.

With notable exceptions, such as people who work in stores and essential public services, Israel's work week ends on Thursday. Even the army went on a Sunday-to-Thursday work week years ago for many of its components. Thursday night has become a time for going out, or even for going away for the weekend. It is Israel's counterpart of Friday night in the western workplace.

The Sunday-Thursday week does not please everyone, and it puts Israel out of synch with other countries. A bill to make Sunday a full day of rest, giving Israel a western-style Monday-Friday workweek, has passed its first reading in the Knesset. To become law, it would have to pass second and third readings.

Powerful interests oppose a Monday-Friday week. Eli Yishai, the leader of the Shas party, says it would be better to make Friday a full day off for everyone. Heads of business organizations say the economy can't afford a Monday-Friday week. They say a five-day week would actually be more like a four-day or four-and-one-half-day week.

This is reminiscent of a joke that used to be heard when the Israel economy was on the six-day week. There were proposals to go to a five-day workweek. Someone said that a five-day week would be too drastic a change for the Israeli worker, and that this should be approached gradually -- first, Israelis should try working one day a week, then two days a week, then three days etc. etc.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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