The television news moderator signed off by saying “Shabbat Shalom to everyone.” But it was only Thursday at 9 PM.
This is what I heard tonight, in this new Israel that has gone to the five-day work week. The weekend for Israeli Jews now begins on Thursday evening and concludes Saturday night, a full 48 hours+ of time away from work.
Time was that Israelis worked themselves six days per week, Sunday 8 AM through 1:00 PM (if you were a government employee) or 3 PM on Friday (if you worked for private industry). Then on your way home, you might have time to pick up some flowers or a bottle of wine for dinner (if you arrived at the store before it closed). If you intended to take the last bus and you missed it, you were out of luck.
Nowadays, Fridays in Israel are much like Saturdays in America: People are off work – for the most part – and doing errands. Commerce is active, businesses are open, and people can choose to be a part of the consuming society or simply rest.
Most people, like my host family, do all of the above: they shop for the week ahead, wash their laundry, clean the house or flat, take long hikes in the parks and forests here in the North, and so forth. This added day of rest – or perhaps a day on which one prepares for the rest of Shabbat – has many advantages. Among these is the advancement of Israel to a society that can begin to take its “rest” seriously and not get caught up too much in the fast pace that characterizes this country most of the time.
Whatever the day, rest for the body and mind is one of the most important gifts that we can give ourselves, and Israelis are truly grateful that this relatively new opportunity presents itself now.
The question for us is how will we bring life-preserving rest to our existence in this world and on this planet? That is the challenge for us all.