The Shortest Summer in the World

From Brooklyn to Antwerp, Jews fasted according to summer DST without complaining, without asking for "respites" and without maddening an entire country.

There are a few people who ought to ask for forgiveness from the people of Israel, namely those Knesset members who are responsible for the situation whereby we return home from work and darkness has already fallen over the country. If we feel the urge to spend some time outside with our children during the nicest time of the year, well, that is out of the question because by half-past-five we are blanketed by darkness.

This is happening because since this past Saturday night, the clocks were moved one hour back, just three measly weeks before the change is to take effect in Europe and North America. In these regions, summer daylight savings time (DST) ends on October 26. Here in our neck of the woods, winter has already arrived.

This morning we rise from bed with the sun already high in the sky, yet we are forced to turn on the lights at 5:30 in the evening. This is due to the "success" of religious MKs and the ultra-Orthodox community who, acting out of populist motives, inflicted damage both to the secular public and their own.

The story begins in the Knesset in 2005, when the argument over summer daylight savings time erupted once again. Instead of examining the issue from an economic and social perspective, MKs bickered over the length of the Passover seder and Yom Kippur. MK David Azoulay of Shas and National Religious Party MK Zevulun Orlev said that the summer clock ought to begin after the Passover seder rather than the start of April, as is customary in all Western countries. "By the time they start looking for the afikoman, the children will already be asleep," the MKs said. In other words, the children's fatigue will be the determining factor for when the summer begins.

As for Yom Kippur, those same MKs argued that the burden of fasting must be eased, as if they were anointed the supreme authority of deciding how best to lighten the load. They said it is necessary to implement winter DST before Yom Kippur so that the fast ends one hour earlier. What an odd way to alleviate the hardship of fasting, given that the holiday will in any event run 25 hours, not to mention the fact that the entire purpose of the fast is to torture the soul.

Ultimately, a compromise was reached with the secular MKs, according to which summer DST will start at the beginning of April as planned, much like in the rest of the world, though it will end before schedule - on the Saturday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, so as to "ease" the fast.

It is interesting to consider how millions of Jews abroad acquit themselves. From Brooklyn to Antwerp, they fasted yesterday according to summer DST without complaining, without asking for "respites" and without maddening an entire country.

Y.H., an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalemite, told me that MKs really have no grasp as to what they are talking about. He says that shortening daylight savings time primarily hurts the religious and ultra-Orthodox communities. "We want summer daylight savings more than the secular," he explained. "Moving up winter daylight savings time impedes the preparations for Yom Kippur. There's the lunch, and then the pre-fast meal, and I also want to go to the Western Wall, but the soul cries out to the heavens because it's impossible to get anything done on time, and mincha prayers already start at 4:30."

The same problem applies to Fridays, when some of the religious would like to eat lunch with their families, rest a little, perhaps go to the mikveh, but are prevented from doing so "because the Sabbath comes in so early."

Y.H. has formed a solid opinion of the ultra-Orthodox MKs. "This is all [the result] of the madness of religious functionaries, minor-league functionaries who don't even understand what kind of damage they are inflicting upon their constituency," he said.

The damage on other fronts is also significant. Shortening summer DST costs the economy NIS 13 million in lost output and electricity expenses. It even harms the quality of life for all of us, since the whole idea of DST is to better maximize the benefits of sunlight, providing more convenient work hours, facilitating greater production, and enabling the public to use less lighting and air-conditioning.

The ultra-Orthodox and religious MKs have also forgotten that summer DST helps reduce the number of road accidents, thus saving lives. They have even ignored the well-being of the working individual who would like to return home while there is still daylight. And so it is that in Israel, of all places, which is a warm-climate country further south than Europe and the United States - where summer DST should be shorter - the summer clock is actually shorter.

Summer DST is in effect in this country for just 190 days, while in Europe it lasts for 218 days and in the U.S., 238 days. The Americans lengthened their summer DST after President Bush issued the decree with the intent of lowering energy consumption. As if the U.S. was the poor country while we are the wealthy one.

This is the reason that, on Yom Kippur, ultra-Orthodox and religious MKs ought to have asked forgiveness from the people of Israel for the damage they have caused. It is by no means certain that we would forgive them. It is more reasonable to assume that we would have asked them to remedy what they have ruined and grant us normal summer hours for the new year, as is the custom throughout the world. We will manage to get through the Yom Kippur fast even without their help.