The Knesset on Monday gave its final approval to a bill that adds more days each year to Israel’s period of daylight saving time, following years of protests against the early switch to standard time.
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Israel switches back to standard time each year before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a move favored by some religious Jews who say it makes the 25-hour holiday fast easier to bear.
However, the abrupt end to daylight saving time during what is usually the tail-end of Israel’s summer drew a barrage of annual criticism, mostly from secular protesters who argued that the move deprived Israelis of another month of sunshine late in the day.
Under the new law, Israel’s daylight saving time will run an average of 193 days a year, compared to 182 under the former law. It should be noted that next Yom Kippur falls on September 13, 2013, meaning that the holy day will be included in next year’s daylight saving time.
Earlier this year, more than 390,000 people signed a petition calling for an extension of daylight saving time beyond October 1.
“The decision [to change the clocks back before Yom Kippur] means millions of working Israelis return home from work in the dark and get up in the morning after the sun has warmed up our already-hot country,” the petition said.
“Standard time cuts short the quality time that parents have with their children, adds to the risk of traffic accidents because of the additional travel in the dark, puts the local time at variance with the time in Europe and the rest of the world, and costs the Israeli economy hundreds of millions of shekels,” it adds.
In 2010, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that the bill “to end daylight saving time before Yom Kippur was passed in 2005, while Shas [an ultra-Orthodox political party] was in the opposition. It was based on social and financial considerations and enjoyed a broad political consensus.”
On Monday, however, the Knesset moved to push back the annual switch, approving a bill based on the recommendations of the Kehat committee, which Yishai formed in February 2011 in order to weigh the arguments for and against extending daylight saving time.
In recent weeks, Shas officials pressured the government to block Monday’s vote, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who pledged to bring the matter before the Knesset before the elections, called the parliament for a special session to vote on the matter.
Kadima MKs Ronit Tirosh and Dalia Itzik, who submitted two bills on the issue that called for a longer extension of daylight saving time, eventually opted to back down and support the committee’s more moderate conclusions. At the time of the vote, only 27 MKs were in attendance, with 19 voting in favor, seven opposing and one abstaining.
Speaking after the Knesset approved the bill, Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, one of the leaders of the struggle to change the date of the switch, said: “There weren’t many issues that created as big a controversy as daylight saving time.”
He noted that “this isn’t anything dramatic like peace or security, but a technical issue of putting daylight saving time more in tune with actual daylight,” adding: “We want sunshine, not darkness, at 5:30 P.M., when many people are getting home from work.”