What Is The First Day Of The Week In Israel?

by oaeen

The concept of the “first day of the week” holds profound significance in any cultural, religious, and societal context. In Israel, this is particularly true due to its unique blend of historical, religious, and modern influences. This article delves into the multifaceted nature of what constitutes the first day of the week in Israel, exploring its historical origins, religious underpinnings, societal norms, and practical applications. By examining these aspects in detail, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the significance and implications of this day in Israeli life.

Historical Origins

Ancient Calendars and Biblical Foundations

The seven-day week has its roots in ancient civilizations, with significant influence from the Babylonian calendar, which was adopted by the Jewish people during their exile in Babylon. The biblical account of creation, as detailed in the Book of Genesis, is central to the Jewish understanding of the week:

“And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3, NIV)

This passage establishes the seventh day, Shabbat (Saturday), as a day of rest, thus making Sunday (Yom Rishon) the first day of the week.

Rabbinic Judaism and the Talmud

The Mishnah and Talmud, foundational texts of Rabbinic Judaism, reinforce the concept of a seven-day week starting with Sunday. These texts provide detailed laws and interpretations related to the observance of Shabbat and the structure of the week, further embedding this system into Jewish religious practice and communal life.

Religious Significance


In Judaism, the structure of the week is fundamentally oriented around Shabbat, the day of rest. The observance of Shabbat begins at sunset on Friday and ends at nightfall on Saturday. Consequently, Sunday, or Yom Rishon (literally “First Day”), marks the beginning of a new week.

The Torah’s commandments related to Shabbat emphasize its sanctity and the cessation of work:

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.” (Exodus 20:9-10, NIV)

This division of the week into six days of labor followed by a day of rest underscores the cyclical nature of time in Jewish thought, starting anew with Sunday.

Christianity and Islam

While Israel is predominantly Jewish, it is home to significant Christian and Muslim populations. For Christians, Sunday holds special significance as the day of Jesus’ resurrection, making it a day of worship and rest. For Muslims, Friday (Jumu’ah) is the holy day of congregation, but the week still starts on Sunday. These religious traditions coexist within Israeli society, each maintaining its own customs while acknowledging the broader cultural framework.

Societal Norms and Practices

The Israeli Workweek

In Israel, the workweek typically begins on Sunday and ends on Thursday, with Friday being a partial workday in preparation for Shabbat. This structure reflects both religious observance and practical considerations, accommodating the diverse needs of the population.

Education System

The Israeli school week also starts on Sunday. Schools operate from Sunday to Thursday, with a shorter day on Friday, allowing families to prepare for Shabbat. This schedule ensures that the educational system aligns with the cultural and religious rhythms of Israeli society.

Government and Public Services

Government offices and public services in Israel follow the same weekly structure, with Sunday as the first day of the week. This includes the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), which conducts its sessions from Sunday to Thursday. Public transportation, postal services, and other essential services are similarly structured, ensuring consistency across various aspects of daily life.

Media and Pop Culture

The Israeli media and popular culture reinforce the concept of Sunday as the first day of the week. Newspapers, television programming, and online content typically align with this schedule. For instance, weekend newspapers are published on Fridays, reflecting the end of the workweek and the preparation for Shabbat.

Practical Applications

Business and Commerce

In the business sector, Sunday marks the beginning of the workweek, with most offices, shops, and markets opening for business. The Israeli financial markets, including the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, operate from Sunday to Thursday. This alignment with the workweek ensures that economic activities are synchronized with societal norms.

Healthcare Services

Healthcare facilities, including hospitals and clinics, operate with Sunday as the first day of the week. While emergency services are available 24/7, routine medical appointments and administrative operations follow the standard workweek schedule.

See also: What Is The First Day Of The Week In The US?

Variations Across Demographics

Ethnic and Religious Communities

Israel’s diverse population includes various ethnic and religious communities, each with its own traditions and practices. While the overarching structure of the week is consistent, specific customs and observances may vary. For example, Arab citizens of Israel, who are predominantly Muslim and Christian, may have different religious services and community activities that reflect their own cultural norms.

Secular vs. Religious Observance

The distinction between secular and religious observance in Israel can influence how the first day of the week is perceived and practiced. Secular Israelis may focus more on the practical aspects of the workweek, while religious Jews emphasize the spiritual significance of the weekly cycle beginning with Sunday and culminating in Shabbat.

Historical Shifts and Influences

Pre-State and Early Statehood Periods

Before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jewish community in Mandatory Palestine (the Yishuv) observed a weekly cycle centered around Shabbat. The formalization of Sunday as the first day of the week became more standardized with the establishment of state institutions and the adoption of official calendars.

Modern Developments

In modern Israel, the structure of the week has remained consistent, but societal changes and technological advancements have introduced new dynamics. The increasing use of digital calendars and international business practices has required flexibility in adapting to global standards while maintaining local customs.

Comparative Perspectives

Global Standards

Internationally, the ISO 8601 standard designates Monday as the first day of the week. While Israel’s calendar system aligns with traditional Jewish practice, interactions with global partners often necessitate adjustments. For example, multinational companies operating in Israel may use dual calendar systems to accommodate both local and international schedules.

Regional Practices

In the Middle East, many countries also recognize Sunday as the first day of the week, although the specific structure of the workweek can vary. For instance, in some Gulf countries, the workweek runs from Sunday to Thursday, similar to Israel, while others may have different configurations.

Impact of Technology

Digital Calendars

The advent of digital calendars and scheduling tools has introduced new considerations for Israelis. Most digital platforms allow users to customize the first day of the week, accommodating personal preferences and cultural norms. This flexibility helps Israelis navigate both local traditions and global interactions.

Data Standardization

For businesses and organizations operating internationally, data standardization often involves aligning with global norms, such as ISO 8601. This may require Israelis to adjust their work schedules and communication practices to ensure consistency and efficiency in international operations.

Future Trends

Cultural Persistence

The deep-rooted cultural and religious significance of Sunday as the first day of the week in Israel is likely to persist. Traditions and practices that have been established over millennia will continue to shape Israeli society, even as it adapts to modern influences.

Globalization and Standardization

As globalization advances, there may be a gradual shift towards adopting international standards, particularly in business and technology. However, this shift will likely coexist with traditional practices, allowing for flexibility and personal preference.


The designation of Sunday as the first day of the week in Israel is a reflection of the nation’s rich historical, religious, and cultural heritage. From its ancient biblical roots to its modern-day applications, this practice permeates every aspect of Israeli life, providing a sense of continuity and rhythm. While global standards and technological advancements introduce new dynamics, the enduring significance of Sunday as the start of the week remains a testament to Israel’s unique identity. Understanding this multifaceted issue requires an appreciation of the diverse influences that shape Israeli society, ensuring that the traditions of the past continue to inform the present and future.

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