Telling Time

Israel's daylight saving time is the shortest in the world.

Last night we moved the hands of the clock one hour ahead and − good for us − we entered daylight saving time. But, as always, our daylight saving time is the shortest in the world. We started it after everyone else and we will end it before everyone else, on September 23 − two days before Yom Kippur.

In a certain distant land, far, far from here, they decided the price of fuel was too high and that therefore they had to save energy. In that country, daylight saving time came into effect three weeks ago ‏(!‏) and will last until November 4 − the longest daylight saving time in the world. In this way the United States will save several billion dollars on lighting and air-conditioning, because in a poor country it is necessary to save. But we, who receive $3 billion annually from that poor country, don’t take the price of fuel into account. We can continue to live and waste regardless, even if the price of fuel soars sky-high.

In the United States the public understands very well that the waking hours should correspond as much as possible with the hours of daylight. This is both logical and healthy. It leads to savings in lighting and air-conditioning costs, reduces the number of road accidents, improves the quality of sleep and also of family life because it is possible to spend time with the family and the children when it is still light outside.

About a year and a half ago, when Israeli ire soared and 300,000 people signed a petition to extend daylight saving time to European dimensions, Interior Minister Eli Yishai decided to appoint the Kehat committee to recommend a new daylight saving time. However, since Yishai is no political rookie, he saw to it that the committee was composed of people who suit his religious view of the world.

Committee members understood it was no longer possible to sell the public the bizarre argument about easing the fast on Yom Kippur, because in any case the fast lasts 25 hours, and so they invented another theological reason to shorten daylight saving time.

The committee said it was not possible to have the same daylight saving time in Israel as in Europe because this would not allow religious people to recite the Shaharit morning prayers properly and also get to work on time. Therefore the daylight saving time recommended by the Kehat committee begins around the same time as it does in Europe but ends a lot earlier − near the beginning rather than at the end of October. In this way the Kehat committee replaced a bizarre argument with an even more bizarre one, which does not explain to the public how the Jews of Paris, Rome and Antwerp manage both to say their morning prayers and to get to work on time. Maybe they are not good enough Jews?

Of course, the whole Shaharit story is nothing but another maneuver to harass the secular public. The committee had to find a new trick to ensure we all know that the people in charge here are Yishai and the religious minority and that the secular majority determines nothing. It can be embittered and sign petitions but it is the religious minority that decides.

The funny part of this story is that Yishai didn’t even take the Kehat committee’s bad recommendations to the Knesset. He didn’t act to translate the recommendations into law. He was apparently busy with other matters, and therefore the proposal for the law he submitted in July 2011 never advanced through the legislative process. It came up for initial discussion only a month ago, on February 28. At the same time several other private members’ bills on the issue submitted by a number of MKs came up, each of them proposing different dates for daylight saving time.

It’s not clear why the lawmakers want to reinvent the wheel. Why do they want an idiosyncratic daylight saving time with dates that don’t match up with any other country? The simple solution is, after all, right under their noses: Adopt the daylight saving time followed in the European Union − that is, daylight saving time that begins on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October.
It’s so simple and easy in a normal country − but who says this is a normal country?