The Jerusalem Post

Will ‘Sundays off ’ reenter national agenda?

Wilbekin powers Maccabi Tel Aviv past feisty Gilboa/Galil in Game 1 of best-of-three series


When Israel’s new Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman met with officials from the Histadrut labor union Monday, a proposal was mentioned that many Israelis have long forgotten: Making Sunday a day off from work.

While Western countries across the world work Monday through Friday, with Saturday and Sunday off, Israel’s work week is Sunday through Thursday, with Friday officially set as a half-day of work for bureaucrat­ic purposes. Over the years, there have been various initiative­s to make Israel’s week look more like that of other countries, but to no avail.

Besides adapting Israel’s schedule to internatio­nal norms, Sundays off raises questions relating to leisure time. Israelis enjoy fewer vacation days than most OECD countries. With just 12 paid vacation days for a worker mandated by law (many get more), and nine paid public holidays, Israelis get far fewer days to relax than most.

That has a cost for individual­s and families, and possibly also for businesses: Israel’s work productivi­ty outside of the hi-tech sector is among the lowest in the world.

In 2016, the proposal was put forward to make one Sunday per month a day off, in an effort to help improve people’s quality of life. Then, concerns about the high cost of 12 days off on the national economy led to that number being cut to just six Sundays per year. And then, as national priorities changed, the proposal was dropped altogether and was not mentioned again.

In Monday’s introducto­ry meeting between Liberman and industry heads, including Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David, the latter raised the Sundays off issue as one of the goals he would like to accomplish during Liberman’s term.

The matter was not discussed beyond that, but the fact that the Histadrut plans to push for Sundays off gives cause for hope that it might become a possibilit­y.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his nominees to be ambassador­s to Israel, Mexico and NATO, as he moves to strengthen US alliances in tough regions.

Among a slate of names announced by the White House on Tuesday were Thomas Nides, a Morgan Stanley vice-chairman who served as a deputy secretary of state under former president Barack Obama, to serve as the ambassador to Israel.

The close US ally is welcoming a new government after the Knesset ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister on Sunday.

Biden also picked Ken Salazar, a former US senator from Colorado and interior secretary, as his ambassador to Mexico. The country is one of the United States’ biggest trading partners and the Biden administra­tion is working to manage immigratio­n across the US-Mexican border.

Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 83-74 to take Game 1 of the Winner League final on Monday night as the yellow-and-blue will have a chance to wrap up the best-of-three series on Wednesday up north in Gan Ner.

Angelo Caloiaro and John DiBartolom­eo helped Ioannis Sfairopoul­os’s side open up a small lead over the course of the first half as Jehyve Floyd countered for Avishay Gordon’s team.

However, the game’s MVP, Scottie Wilbekin, moved into high gear over the course of the fourth quarter to help close out the victory.

Wilbekin led the way for Maccabi with 24 points, Caloiaro added 16 points and Ante Zizic scored 11 points in the win. Floyd was the Gilboa high scorer with 17 points, Iftach Ziv chipped in with 13 points and Kerry Blackshear scored 10 points in defeat.

“We knew that Gilboa is a good team and that they wouldn’t give up,” said Sfairopoul­os following the game. “They always tried to cut down the difference from when we had a 10 or 11-point lead to six or seven points. We can’t relax and we need to fight until the end.”

Wilbelkin reflected on the keys to the win.

“We played well as a team and we focused on our defense limiting their transition and offensive rebounds. I think we did a good job with our game plan.”

Gilboa’s coach, Gordon, noted that there is a lot for his team to build on and that his players would not be hanging their heads.

“We came up short in aggressive­ness and offensive rebounds,” Gilboa coach Gordon explained. “We will work on this and we aren’t going to wave the white flag. We worked hard all season for this.” Floyd also looked back on the loss. “In the first quarter we didn’t come out aggressive, including me, and they are a good team. They make you pay when you make a mistake and we have to be better.”

Right after tipoff, Zizic scored in the paint while Wilbekin and Caloiaro went from deep for Tel Aviv.

Floyd countered with a pair of baskets

inside for Hapoel Gilboa, but the yellowand-blue stayed in front 13-4 midway through the first quarter.

Ziv went in for a layup, Artzi hit a corner three-pointer and Blackshear scored off a broken play in the paint, but Caloiaro continued with the hot hand from downtown as the hosts held a 21-15 lead after 10 minutes of play.

DiBartolom­eo drilled home a pair of triples to open the second quarter while Othello Hunter added a bucket inside as Blackshear scored for visitors, with Sfairopoul­os’s squad maintainin­g the upper hand at 31-20 with 6:22 left in the half.

Artzi went off the glass, Joe Thomasson hit a baseline jumper and Blackshear scored a reverse layup, but Omri Casspi tipped the ball in for Tel Aviv, Zizic powered inside, Caloiaro added yet another

three and Chris Jones scored on an off-balance jumper.

Isaiah Cousins scored a pair of baskets and Thomasson dialed up from long-distance to cut the Maccabi advantage to 42-36 at the break.

The yellow-and-blue put in free-throws to begin the third quarter, but Floyd raised the ire of the Maccabi fans with two monster dunks before baskets by Caloiaro and Wilbekin kept the home team in the lead (50-42) midway through the frame.

Ziv and Artzi came right back with baskets, but Casspi scored from both inside and outside to raise the roof and Jones went in for a layup to keep the hosts in front 57-50 after 30 minutes of end-to-end action.

Wilbekin put in a pair of left-handed baskets to get the fourth quarter off and running and DiBartolom­eo drilled home

a triple, but Floyd and Ziv answered at the other end of the court to keep Gilboa close, down 66-57 with 6:13 remaining in regulation time.

Zizic scored on a broken play, Wilbekin beat his defender for a straight path to the hoop, while Cousins and Floyd scored for Gilboa.

Then Wilbekin came right back down and nailed a three-pointer as the shot clock expired to bump the lead up to 73-63 with three minutes left in the contest.

Ziv hit a last-gasp three for the visitors, but Yovel Zoosman checked in with his first points of the night with a baseline layup and Zizic added points inside to wrap up the victory for Maccabi and push it closer to yet another local title.

On TV:

When Naftali Bennett requested “support for the unity government... to restore stability and functional­ity to the State of Israel,” the new prime minister sold his government short. In his discipline­d, elegant, substantiv­e and moving speech, Bennett did not just take a giant step toward such instrument­alist goals – he also restored grace to Israel’s government.

Admittedly, many Jews consider “grace” a goyish word. Christians say “grace” before or after meals; and seek a “state of grace,” meaning a taste of the godly life as God’s gift; Jews seek to live a good life but understand that humans can never achieve a godly life. And American Jewish comedians have long contrasted their graceful non-Jewish neighbors with a Jewish Braniac klutziness.

Actually, “grace” is a deeply Jewish word too, translated into Hebrew as chesed, meaning mercy, compassion, loving kindness. Those godly qualities have long circulated in the Jewish bloodstrea­m helping us cope with disasters – and bond with one another.

In politics, “grace” combines compassion with class. Every healthy democracy needs heaps of grace, especially during elections and government transition­s. Grace allows us to leap from clashing politicall­y to building consensus, from denouncing rivals to cooperatin­g with neighbors.

It’s reasonable to expect political opponents to fight intensely, but it’s also reasonable to expect democratic rivals to lose gracefully, to start healing the nation once the results become clear – or coalitions coalesce. The patriot continues opposing the government on particular policies, but stops questionin­g its legitimacy. Grace prevents “sore winners” from taking revenge on the losers – while preventing sore losers from still electionee­ring or plotting when the time for constructi­ve governance has already begun.

Naftali Bennett’s maiden speech graced us. Thanking not just Benjamin Netanyahu but Sara Netanyahu – Bennett’s old nemesis – was one of many elegant gestures.

Bennett reassured every citizen, “We have come to work! For everyone.” Beyond reaching out to Arabs – welcomed into coalition politics at Netanyahu’s initiative, Bennett cleverly noted – he reassured “the ultra-Orthodox” too. Promising to “represent” them, Bennett made a lovely move that was just passive-aggressive enough to show he was no patsy. Mentioning “Eliyahu Shmuel, of blessed memory – a 16-year-old ultra-Orthodox” Meron victim, while promising to establish a “state commission of inquiry,” Bennett demonstrat­ed this new government’s turn toward menschlech­keit and good governance. Shrewdly, effortless­ly, Bennett appealed to the ultra-Orthodox while bypassing their corrupt, self-important, negligent and now-terrified politician­s.

Bennett’s address culminated with a novel maneuver using

familiar words: by reciting the prayer for the State of Israel, the first-kippah-wearing prime minister celebrated Israel in all its Israelines­s as a Jewish and Democratic state. The move was both profoundly religious and delightful­ly nationalis­t.

Any fair observer on Sunday had an even greater appreciati­on of the grace that Bennett – then Yair Lapid – displayed – because the opposition behaved so gracelessl­y. When Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich, and others yelled insults as Bennett spoke, these authoritar­ian arsonists embarrasse­d themselves – not the nation. They showed their characteri­stic contempt for democracy and for Israel’s defining Zionist, democratic and Jewish values.

Watching this spectacle, many of us wondered, do any Likudnikim have any shame? Fortunatel­y, at least one did: Outgoing Health

Minister Yuli Edelstein was caught on camera telling Gideon Sa’ar “I am still a Knesset speaker in my soul and what happened in the plenum is unacceptab­le.”

SADLY, THE boorish behavior anticipate­d Benjamin Netanyahu’s thuggish swan song. Netanyahu started strong, detailing his accomplish­ments economical­ly, politicall­y, diplomatic­ally. And Bibi got in a few sharp elbows, which were clever enough to be justified. For example, Netanyahu made “just one, modest request. Try to ruin the economy that we are leaving you as little as possible, so that we can fix it as quickly as possible when we return to power.”

Yet, unable to stop himself, Netanyahu crossed the line, snarling, sniping, trying to make Bennett look bad, but ultimately diminishin­g himself. He claimed, with no evidence, that the Iranian mullahs “are celebratin­g because they understand that starting today there will be a weak and unstable government that will align with the dictates of the internatio­nal community.”

What kind of patriot speaks that way about his own government? What kind of a democratic statesman speaks that way about his successors?

Both Bennett and Bibi could have reinforced the celebratio­n of the good Netanyahu accomplish­ed. Instead, Bibi’s nastiness reminded many Israelis why they were relieved to see him ousted despite his accomplish­ments – and how much harm Netanyahu has done to those invisible but essential threads that keep communitie­s communal and democracie­s democratic.

Just as typically, Netanyahu’s Iran snipe – and many of his allies’ sneers – implied that all this Bennettian “grace” reflected weakness. But there’s a second translatio­n for “grace” in the Bible – chen. Chen can mean charm, that light touch, that essential extra, that makes grace graceful.

But chen also means strength. That’s where Bibi most miscalcula­ted. Bibi’s bullying boorishnes­s, and his followers’ furious fuming, was supposed to broadcast strength – and make their opponents look wimpy. Instead, all this anti-democratic, graceless hysteria looked weak – and panicky.

Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid, and their winning coalition continued conveying grace with a generosity of spirit, a welcoming air, touches of class, and a message of strength and self-confidence. From the gallery, Bennett’s sons showed how democratic bonds are strengthen­ed by grace rather than strained by harshness, when they signed “I-heart-you” to their dad, amid Bibi’s balagan – i.e. the Corrupt-one’s Chaos.

We don’t know how long this government will last, but we know its values will outlast Bibi’s.

The writer is a Distinguis­hed Scholar of North American History at McGill University, and the author of nine books on American history and three books on Zionism. His book,

 ?? (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) ?? FINANCE MINISTER Avigdor Liberman arrives at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for a group photo of the new government on Monday.
(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) FINANCE MINISTER Avigdor Liberman arrives at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for a group photo of the new government on Monday.
 ?? (Danny Maron) ?? MACCABI TEL AVIV center Ante Zizic dives for a loose ball in front of Hapoel Giboa/Galil forward Yotam Hanochi during the yellowand-blue’s 83-74 victory on Monday night at Yad Eliyahu in Game 1 of the best-of-three Winner League finals.
(Danny Maron) MACCABI TEL AVIV center Ante Zizic dives for a loose ball in front of Hapoel Giboa/Galil forward Yotam Hanochi during the yellowand-blue’s 83-74 victory on Monday night at Yad Eliyahu in Game 1 of the best-of-three Winner League finals.
 ?? (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90) ?? PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett in the Knesset on Sunday.
(Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90) PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett in the Knesset on Sunday.
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