Home November 2013 The Gesher

The Gesher

It’s an age-old problem for the American workplace: to declare a work holiday on the day after Thanksgiving, or to require employees to use a vacation day if they do not wish to come in to work?  What has made this a problem for employers is not their hard-heartedness but the lack of a suitable justification for their generosity.
If the reason to give time off on that Friday after Thanksgiving is nothing other than employee convenience, well, that just won’t do, will it?  I mean, different employees find many different days throughout the year when it would be convenient for them to stay home.  So you can’t just give your workers time off because it’s convenient for them not to come in to work.
But if there were some way to give employees that Friday off without letting things get out of hand, most employers would jump at the chance.  Well, corporate America, Israel has a one-word solution to your problem: gesher.
The gesher (or “bridge”) is how Israel addresses a situation where two periods of holiday time are separated by a small break.  As an example of how this works, consider when Yom Kippur falls on a Thursday.  Ordinarily, most schools in Israel are open on Fridays (for a 6-day school week), but the Friday after a Thursday Yom Kippur is a classic gesher day since it bridges the holiday time of Yom Kippur and Shabbat.  In this case, Friday is usually declared a gesher day and schools are closed.
There is also something called the “double gesher.”  This occurs when the tail end of one holy period acts as the front end of another.  In the example of the Thursday Yom Kippur, that Shabbat two days after Yom Kippur is also just two days before the eve of Succot (and the eves of holidays in Israel are also holidays).  And just as Shabbat allows Friday to be a gesher day between it and Yom Kippur, so Shabbat can allow Sunday to be a gesher day between it and Succot eve.
Please do not think that a gesher has to be limited to just one day.  This year Yom Kippur was on a Saturday and Succot eve was on a Wednesday.  This left just three little old days separating the two holiday times of Yom Kippur and Succot eve.  The powers that be in Israel’s Ministry of Education apparently felt that it was not worth cranking up the whole educational system for such a short time period, and so Israel’s schoolchildren were the happy recipients this year of a three-day gesher.
The lesson for America is simple: the Friday after Thanksgiving is merely a bridge between the turkey holiday and the ensuing weekend — it is a gesher waiting to happen.  Employers could feel generous giving employees that Friday off but secure in the knowledge that there was an official name to the holiday and that their workplace was not turning into a free-for-all.
If you are wondering at this point whether or not a gesher could be declared any time December 25 (and therefore also January 1) or July 4 fall on a Thursday or Tuesday, for a four-day holiday weekend, the answer is: yes.  But the true beauty of the gesher is that once a culture fully internalizes gesher principles, a four-day holiday weekend seems not only reasonable but a God-given right.
Happy Thanksgiving and Gesher Days.

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