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Yishai decides to extend daylight saving time by 11 days
By JONAH MANDEL AND LAHAV HARKOV
06/07/2011
Interior Minister to elongate DST period to approximately 193 days, by determining its end as the first weekend after October 1.
 
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) announced on Monday his decision to elongate the daylight saving time period to approximately 193 days, by determining its end as the first weekend after October 1.

Up to now, the period began before the last weekend in March and ended on the weekend before Yom Kippur, the rationale being to enable the day’s fast to end earlier.

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Since the Gregorian calendar is determined by the sun and the Jewish calendar by the moon, the period’s length in its previous formula fluctuated between 163 and 198 days, averaging 182. Yishai’s decision, which followed the recommendations of a professional committee, will thus effectively add just 11 days of daylight saving time but stabilize its framework.

The committee, composed of professionals from academia, government ministries and industrialists, was formed by Yishai in February, as a bill by MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) stipulating that DST continue to the end of October, was set for a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

At the time, Yishai stressed that the debate around DST’s length was not a religious question, rather a professional one. This sentiment was reiterated on Monday by committee member Prof. Ely Merzbach, a Bar-Ilan University mathematician who noted that “Yom Kippur is always 25 hours, with or without DST,” in response to the notion that the clock was kept from being extended because of the fast.

In the new arrangement, approximately half of Yom Kippurs will fall within DST and half out of it. When asked if that would be problematic for those fasting, Yishai grinned and assured the reporters that “the public will manage.”

At the same time, a member of the committee told The Jerusalem Post that according to the modern-Orthodox Tzohar Rabbis, who testified before the committee, October 10 was the latest time in the year the DST could run to, if one wanted to give observant people a proper daily morning prayer service. “To keep a safe distance from that date, some of us proposed October the 7 and some October 5. In the end, we decided to round it down to the beginning of the month,” he said.

Yishai confirmed to reporters that he had shown the committee’s recommendations to his patron, Shas’s spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who told him that “if [the beginning of October] is an acceptable compromise that gives the public a better feeling,” they should approve the date. “You shouldn’t go to war on that,” Yishai cited Yosef as saying.

A hefty booklet containing the 10- member committee’s research and findings also showed that contrary to public belief, DST does not necessarily save the economy money, diminish car accidents and illnesses. “What creates car accidents, sickness and sleep problems is actually the transition period,” committee chairman Dov Kehat said.

Another finding in the committee’s report was that according to a Dahaf Institute poll c o m m i s - sioned by the committee, the public is split down the middle on the question of the DST – 50 percent of Israelis support extending it, while 46% are in favor of keeping it its current length or even shortening it.

“This shows that it is not a dispute between religious and secular people,” Yishai said. “The new period creates a better balance between the different opinions in the public.”

Nearly 300,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the government to extend daylight savings.

While one of the reasons cited by the committee was to increase economic coordination between Israel and Europe, there will still be a month’s difference between Israel and the continent, where daylight savings last till the end of October.

Rabbi Uriel Genzel of the Tzohar Rabbis who heads their “Tzohar legislation” project said his organization was pleased that Yishai was “accepting our initiative, which proves that through dialogue we can reach results to everyone’s satisfaction... We hope this will put an end to the seasonal involvement with this issue, which caused unnecessary disputes.”

Horowitz called Yishai’s announcement “disappointing.”

“Daylight saving time should be extended in a more significant way, similar to the date clocks are changed in the EU and US – the end of October,” Horowitz said. “Changing the clocks on October 1 means extending daylight saving time by only a few days on average, and this year it will be shortened.”

“We will continue in the effort to significantly extend daylight saving time,” Horowitz added.

MK Dalia Itzik (Kadima) also slammed the proposal, saying that “in some cases it will shorten daylight savings time. We will only gain four weeks of summer in the next 20 years.”

Itzik proposed a bill that would have daylight savings time end on October 10 of every year, which will lead to 31 additional weeks of daylight savings time in the next 20 years.

Yishai said that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation would later on Monday vote on a proposal in line with his committee’s recommendations, that would take Horowitz and Itzik’s bills into account. The minister said he hoped the bill would become law by the end of the current session, ahead of this year’s Yom Kippur.
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