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Israel’s best-kept secret (shhh): Fridays.


One thing we knew for sure before we came to Israel – there’s no weekend here.  When Shabbos ends, you roll over and start the week all over again, fresh and raring to go on Sunday morning.

“Nope, no weekend here,” everybody here told us, and we felt sorry for them.  We gritted our teeth in preparation for this dismal, weekend-less state. 

“Enjoy it now,” we told ourselves every Sunday we were still in Canada… well, except every other week, when Akiva had to work those late Saturday nights and long, long Sundays (because only half the staff was on, there was often more than twice the workload). 

But never mind.  Enjoy it now, we thought, because in Israel, there would be no more weekends!

So here’s the thing no-one tells you (shhh!). 

There really is a weekend here.  It starts on Thursday night, the big party night of the week.  Why?  Because nobody has to work Fridays.

Okay, that’s not quite true.  Lots of people really do have to work on Fridays, in the same way that lots of people work on Saturdays and Sundays in Canada… like bus drivers, doctors, store clerks, supermarket cashiers.  It’s still – over there – officially considered “the weekend.”

Most adults here don’t work Fridays.  Offices, universities, government, and any other non-essential services are closed or run in a very reduced way.  If your job involves a desk and email, you probably won’t have to do it on a Friday.

But you know who does have to work on Fridays? 

Kids, that’s who!  Yup, Fridays are only the weekend for people who are over 18.  It seems to be some sort of reward for attaining the age of majority.

Now, if schools are open, that means teachers have to work Friday as well.  So they get a different day off – Naomi Rivka’s teachers, both last year and this year, taken Wednesdays off, but GZ’s teacher this year takes Tuesdays off. 

(I suppose you don’t want all the regular teachers away on any given day or it would turn into Lord of the Flies in the playground.)

On the teachers’ days off, the kids study other things with other teachers.  Like science, or art, or English. 

According to Naomi Rivka (Grade Three), various teachers just pop themselves in and out of the classroom all day long, and there isn’t a main teacher.  No problem unless one of the “fill-in” teachers can’t make it.  In which case, the kids sit and entertain themselves until a teacher comes along to rescue their impressionable minds.

So, except for teachers and other vital workers, Fridays are basically a vacation day – for adults only.

As a former homeschooling mom who adores hanging out with her kids, I hate to endorse the attitude of “the kids are in school – yay, let’s party!”  On the other hand, it is very, very nice to have a window of time and a quiet house in which to get things done before Shabbos.

And before you start feeling sorry for the kids, suckered out of their weekend, I want to jump in and add that Friday is not a hard day at school. 

It’s actually a day both kids very much look forward to. 

Naomi Rivka brings a little backpack instead of her huge backpack on wheels.  She only needs a few things on Fridays.  GZ leaves most of his notebooks at home; by now, he knows exactly which supplies to bring.   He also knows to wear his white school shirt; we’re not sure if this is a rule or if he just imagines that it is, but he looks nice and tidy, so why not?

There’s also usually some sort of candy or prize.  Sometimes, both.  Fridays are a very sweet day at school.

At Naomi Rivka’s school last year, they had a “shuk” (market) every single Friday where they kids could spend “money” they earned with good behaviour during the course of the week.  GZ’s school does that occasionally.  They can buy candy or dollar-store junk – a couple of weeks ago, he very proudly “bought” her a skipping rope.

And then, of course, everything grinds to a halt early.  No matter what’s going on, even if they haven’t had time to cover everything they were supposed to cover, when 11:45 or so rolls around (a bit later in the sunnier months), that’s it.  Bell rings, and the kids are off.

Then, they burst through the school gate, ready and eager to start the weekend.  Which, of course, lasts exactly one day.  By 8 am Sunday morning, they’ll be back at the gate, raring to start their 6-day school week all over again.

While we adults wave goodbye to them, grit our teeth… and chuckle silently at the thought that there are only 5 working days ahead until the weekend.

[“tgif” image credit:  Maurina Rara via flickr]

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


  1. It wasn't always like this with Fridays off, but for those with "easy" jobs, it's great. When I taught I never worked on Friday. And even in the store, not every week.

    1. I believe it. The books I read that assured me that there was no weekend here were from 20 years ago. How far we've come... :-)

  2. In the summer months, when Shabbat doesn't begin until around 7 p.m., Fridays are a great day for getting together with friends or for family outings. Many people go out for brunch/lunch on Friday.

    1. I like this idea in theory... but I always preferred doing family stuff on Sunday because on Friday, you have Shabbat "hanging over your head." Friday has never been a day I could relax, no matter how late it is. But I guess I'll have to learn, right?

    2. It just takes a little advance planning. Try it - you'll like it!


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