And Then There Was Winter

Anyone who left work early Sunday and went out to have some fun with the family encountered an unexpected problem: darkness in the middle of the afternoon

Anyone who left work early yesterday and went out to have some fun with the family encountered an unexpected problem: darkness in the middle of the afternoon. Winter has been ushered in at the very nicest time of year, when the weather has become more bearable, when the sea is smooth − in short, when summer is still here.

Last Saturday night clocks were turned back one hour, meaning that while Europe and North America end summer (daylight saving) time on the last Sunday of October, so they enjoy an extra month and a half of late afternoon sun, here darkness falls at 6 P.M.

Now when we wake up in the morning, the sun is already high in the sky, which is simply a waste of sunlight. We pay the price for this in the evenings, when it gets dark too early. All this because the secular majority in the Knesset preferred to kowtow to the religious and ultra-Orthodox, instead of representing the interests of its constituents.The discussion held on this issue in 2005 was utterly delusional. Instead of speaking about daylight saving time (DST) from a humanistic, social and economic point of view, the Knesset members focused on one thing only: the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) fast. The religious and ultra-Orthodox MKs set the agenda, with the aim of making the fast "easier." As if this were their divinely ordained prerogative. They wanted Yom Kippur to fall during winter time so the fast would end an hour earlier. This is quite a strange form of "easing," since the duration of the fast remains the same.

And what of the millions of Jews abroad? In Brooklyn and Manhattan, Jews fast according to DST, without pestering a whole nation. Here, however, they managed to welcome winter a month and a half early, in total defiance of logic. After all, we live in a warmer and more easterly country than Europe and North America; so daylight saving time should last longer, not end sooner.

There is a more elegant solution to this problem, one that won't drive a whole country crazy: let them start their prayer services an hour later, reducing the fasting public?s waking hours by one hour ?(some synagogues overseas actually do this?).

Those responsible for this distortion are former interior minister Ophir Pines-Paz ?(Labor?) and MK Chaim Oron ?(Meretz?). Neither of them could withstand the pressure, and neither of them represented the interests of the majority. They decided on a short, strange daylight savings time period, unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Even the Palestinian Authority was smart enough to adopt the European standard, although Muslims face a similar problem during the Ramadan fast.

The Knesset Interior Committee decided that DST will begin at 2 A.M. on the last Friday before April 2 ?(which is okay?), but will end at 2 A.M. on the Saturday night between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in order to achieve their ultimate goal: to hold Yom Kippur during winter time.Both the interior minister and the committee?s MKs forgot that the purpose of DST is to take advantage of the daylight hours so work hours will be more comfortable, to increase productivity and in order to save electricity on lighting and air conditioning. They forgot that DST contributes to reducing the number of traffic accidents and thereby saves lives. They ignored the welfare of the working population, who want to come home from work when there is still enough light for them to enjoy some family time.

Under the abridged DST, the Israeli economy saved a total of NIS 80 million. This saving stems from a 0.5 percent reduction in electricity consumption, which translates into a saving of NIS 14 million to households and close to five times that sum for the business sector. If DST were maintained for another month and a half, we would save another NIS 20 million and our quality of life would improve as well.When the clock strikes 6 this evening, Pines-Paz and Oron should look heavenward and quietly admit to themselves that they screwed up. They did not properly represent the silent secular majority. They agreed to this unnecessary damage caused by an additional month and a half of winter. For this they should ask for forgiveness on Yom Kippur, which falls on this Saturday, during winter time.