Two Time Zones for Two Peoples: What Happens When Israel Moves Clock, but Palestinians Don’t

'This is so stupid, I don't get why we have to use different times even though we live together,' Palestinian says amid time gap between Palestinians and settlers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks at his watch in the Knesset.
Emil Salman

Like many Israelis, Musa, a Palestinian from the West Bank, was late to work on Friday. However, unlike Israelis, he was also one hour early for his studies in Bethlehem, but not because he forgot to change his alarm clock for daylight savings time, but because he did.

While Israel moved its clock up by an hour on Friday, Palestinians in the West Bank will only change theirs early Sunday, creating a one hour time gap. This is further complicated by the fact that Israeli settlers living in the West Bank adhere to Israeli time, while Palestinians don't, so as the clock chimes noon in the Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit, its only 11 A.M. in the adjacent Palestinian town of Husan.

"For us, summer starts tomorrow," Musa said, "I have an Israeli number so my phone updated to Israeli time, but it's one hour earlier in West Bank."

The time gap caused confusion between Israeli and Palestinian services, with bus lines between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, for example, running on Israeli time, though those using them hold Palestinian time.

For many young Palestinians the changing of the seasons seems to be linked directly to their cellphones, and as Musa described, he uses an Israeli number, so his phone updated to Israeli time.

"My friends at work called to ask why I didn't show up, and I told them I wanted to sleep.” At Palestinian schools they'll change the clocks only on Sunday, so when he showed up for class he was an hour late. "It's stupid, it should the same time zone," he said.

Sayed, a tour guide from Hebron also has an Israeli phone number, said every year he gets out of sync with his immediate environment. "But I'm used to it already," he says.

Wassam, a producer for Al Jazeera who lives in Ramallah, is less accustomed to the situation. "I need to work with two times zones in the next few days, when I set up an interview with an Israeli, I need to remember to tell him Jerusalem time is not Ramallah time," Wassam said.

To make matters worse, Wassam cellphone providers got mixed up, and, ironically, his Palestinian phone updated to Israeli time while his Israeli forgot to update all together.

"This is so stupid, I don't get why we have to use different times even though we live together," he said, explaining how a colleague who crossed into the West Bank from Jordan had to wait an hour for him to come and pick him up. "He had no idea what time zone to use," he said, adding that he almost missed his chance as the crossing closes at 10 am.

For Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the matter is even more complex, and Mohammed from Jabal Mukhaber said he moved his clock with a heavy heart: "What can I do, I live in Israel." Efrat, his Jewish neighbor from Armon Hanatziv, woke up a short distance away, fearing her clock failed to update.