Home > Ira Sharkansky, Israel > Summer Time debate is another of Israel’s peculiarities

Summer Time debate is another of Israel’s peculiarities

September 5, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Lots of countries do something nutty. That’s  a practice that does not make sense, but has the support of entrenched politicians and much of the public as “the way things are done.”

In Germany it is superhighways without speed limits. In the United States it is easy access to firearms. In Britain it is the definition of one’s body weight in stones.

In Israel it is what the locals call Summer Time, and what is known in the United States as Daylight Savings Time.

Israel’s nuttiness may not be as dangerous to life and limb as those of Germany and the United States, but it is no less nutty.

The deal is that Israeli Summer Time must end on the weekend before Yom Kippur. Advocates claim that it makes fasting easier, but skeptics note that the fast lasts 25 hours, whether from a clock hour later or earlier on one day to a later or earlier clock hour plus one hour on the next day.

Could the fast be easier when it begins at 5 PM and ends at 6 PM than when it begins as 6 PM and ends at 7 PM?

I know of no survey that answers that question. However, the ultra-Orthodox parties are insisting that it stay that way.

The coming Sabbath begins at 6:12 and ended at 7:27 in Jerusalem. Summer time ends between this coming Saturday and Sunday. The Yom Kippur fast should begin no later than 5:03 the following Frday and end no earlier than at 6:16 on Saturday. The times for other cities differ by a few minutes, and can be found on published calendars.

An industrialist, who may or may not be planning to fast, has begun to wage a campaign to do away with the nuttiness. He asserts that it costs money, puts Israel out of sync with its overseas markets and suppliers, and that he will order his company to stay on Summer Time until Europe makes its change at the end of October.

The head of the SHAS delegation in the Knesset and the Minister of Interior, Eli Yishai, is the man in charge of this, and he insists that Summer Time must end on the weekend before Yom Kippur. But whether he is serious or not, he is proposing a super-nuttiness: re-instituting Summer Time after Yom Kippur.

This would mean that Israelis would move their clocks back on the coming weekend, them move them ahead after Yom Kippur. Since the fast falls this year on Friday-Saturday, that would presumably mean that Israelis could be changing their clocks soon after breaking the fast. So far Yishai has not said when he would suggest going back again to Winter Time.

Insofar as there is less than a week to the scheduled end of Summer Time, Yishai’s super nuttiness probably won’t be vetted by the professionals in his ministry, formally proposed, debated, and voted on this year.

But maybe next year.

There is only so much that the Israeli majority can demand from its minority of religious extremists. It is pressing hard, with tiny results, to induce ultra-Orthodox youth to spend a bit of time in the military; to end the rejection of Sephardi pupils by Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox schools; to facilitate the continuation of   construction projects whenever there is a discovery of ancient bones that may be Jewish; and to insert courses in English, mathematics, science, and technology to the ultra-Orthodox curriculum.

No one should expect that the Education Ministry would try to impose on the ultra-Orthodox anything like evolution or sex education, and maybe not anything to do with biology, history, or social science.

Ultra-Orthodox kids are as bright as any. They begin school at the age of three, handle Aramaic as well as spoken and Biblical Hebrew (and the Ashkenazim Yiddish), and understand convoluted Talmudic logic by their teens, and can be taught to make a living doing computer programming.

Israel has been able to create technological colleges for ultra-Orthodox post-teens, with the young men separate from young women, but putting those subjects in the curriculum of most schools for ultra-Orthodox adolescents has so far eluded the Education Ministry or the Government.

Putting off the end of Summer Time until after Yom Kippur?

It’s less of a priority than the army, ethnic segregation, finding a solution for bones that may be Jewish, and the school curriculum.

One should not expect Israel to get to it in our life time.

In the event that this nuttiness may represent my last note of the year, let me wish you all that is good for the coming year, whenever it comes on your clocks this Wednesday evening.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

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