After numerous delays the Kehat committee has submitted its findings on daylight saving time, and Interior Minister Eli Yishai is expected to announce his decision on the matter next Monday.
A few weeks ago the committee's chairman, Dov Kehat, asked me to present my opinion to the committee. I appeared before the panel, and realized from their questions that its members do not intend to make a significant change. They are not about to turn Israel into a normal state. The committee is going in the opposite, complicated, convoluted direction - the way government committees like to do. As the saying goes, a camel is a horse designed by a government committee.
Appearing before the committee was depressing. Its members did not want to hear about the many studies proving daylight saving time saves energy; contributes to public health; and reduces the number of traffic accidents. They said there was no single opinion on the subject and that other studies reached different conclusions. Of course, there are always "other studies." Those who want to prevent extending daylight saving time for religious reasons, but disguise their purpose with all kinds of "studies" will always reach the opposite conclusion.
When I understood that scientific arguments were futile, I used simple common sense. If the people of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand practice a long, significant daylight saving time, perhaps they have caught onto something, even though they're only goyim.
Daylight saving, I said, was practiced back in ancient times to enable farmers to till the land in daylight. Since then, throughout history, a flexible daylight saving time was set for various cities, to save lighting. But only when they were short of coal, during World War I, did the fighting parties decide to employ daylight saving to save energy - and Europe continues to do so.
There is no need for research to understand that daylight saving time improves the quality of life. It is better to be awake when it is light outside, and we sleep better when it is dark outside. Also, everyone prefers one more hour of light in the summer, when returning from work in the evening. This allows parents to spend quality time with the family.
The committee members were not that impressed by my arguments. Some of them are religious and know very well why the minister appointed them to the committee. They know Yishai sees himself as the protector of "the elderly, pregnant women and children," who find it difficult, he says, to fast on Yom Kippur. This is why he wants daylight saving to end before the Day of Atonement, even though this does not shorten the fast. The result is daylight saving a month or two shorter than in the rest of the Western states.
Hence the committee has decided on a complicated mechanism, which will examine daylight saving in the next 20 years and expand it in certain years but not in others. So, in some cases, Yom Kippur will take place with daylight saving time and in others, on winter time. In other words, every year we will have a different daylight saving time, which is a bureaucratic complication and a confusion, the kind government committees love so much.
Committee members at that meeting made another wacky argument - that extending daylight saving time will not enable religious Jews to attend morning prayers, eat breakfast and get to work on time. I asked them, how come the Jews of Brooklyn, Paris and Rome manage to say their morning prayers and work as well? For this they had no answer.
Meanwhile, public pressure has grown, and online petitions are calling on Yishai to establish a normal daylight saving time. After all, Yishai is not obliged to accept the committee's recommendations. He can turn the tables upside down and make a brave decision - Israel will adopt the European Union's daylight saving time, implementing it between the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
This way we will not be like Iran, which sets its daylight saving time according to the Ramadan fast. This will make us part of the Western world. A normal state. But who here wants to be normal?
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