Terra Incognita: Next year, think differently
A new year means a clean slate and a clear mind, and of course learning from last year's mistakes.
Man looks at his watch Photo: REUTERS/David Gray
Israel, like any other country, suffers from the human condition of group think. This manifests itself in endless clichés, awkward and forced comparisons to historical events. The season, full as it is with holidays, gives us time to reflect on some issues that could benefit from free thinking.
DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME
Every year Israelis are inundated with propaganda about daylight savings time.
This year the country “jumped backward” on September 23 when clocks were moved from 2 a.m. to 1a.m. Ostensibly this means people get up earlier; previously the sun was rising at 7 a.m., now it rises at 6 a.m. This also makes darkness arrive “earlier.”
Israelis have been told this is a religious conspiracy, set in motion by the Shas party to make the Yom Kippur fast easier.
Nehemia Shtrasler writes, “when the sun sets already at 5:30 p.m. and darkness covers the face of the earth, we shall all remember that there is only one other country in the world where the ayatollahs set the way the clock works. That country is Iran.”
The obsession over daylight savings is presented as a religious-secular issue; the “parasitic and exploitative” Orthodox Judaism, in the words of Shtrasler, versus the modern, high-tech Jews of the coastal plain. In Tel Aviv Meretz voters and people from the Israel Hofshit movement of “pluralistic and religious freedom” protested. In addition, 390,000 people signed a petition claiming the change “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.”
One might think that the whole world’s success depended on daylight savings time. Singapore is more successful than Burma? It’s because of daylight savings. Roman general Varus, plodding around the German forests in 9 CE, marched his legions to defeat against the barbarian hordes? Of course, he set his clock back.
Think differently. Daylight savings time is only appropriate for countries farthest from the equator where the seasons are more extreme. Changing the time doesn’t make the Yom Kippur fast easier; it lasts a full day anyway, and artificially changing clock times doesn’t make an economy (in which most people work in artificial light, anyway) more productive.
Israel should simply abolish daylight savings time, rather than trying to “be more like Europe.” Geographically we are not in Europe, we are closer to the equator, and if Israel’s citizens feel that they need to be in Europe, they are always welcome to move there.
HIT AND RUN DRIVERS
We are being plagued by murderous hit and run drivers. In one of the most notorious recent cases Shushan Barabi of Netanya is accused of “manslaughter, abandoning the scene of an accident, obstruction of justice and using drugs.”
According to reports he was at a night club drinking alcohol and ran down three women while driving home.
But what was more infamous about the crime was that it turned out it wasn’t Barabi’s first run-in with the law. In April 2010 he led police on a high-speed chase, running red lights and driving all the way from Herzliya to Netanya. After being arrested he escaped the patrol car and was on the lam for two weeks.
Although he was sentenced to eight months in prison, the judges took pity on him and let him out after only two. As a reward for his criminal activity, according to an investigative report by Revital Hovel, “in order to enable him to earn a decent living, the municipality gives him a kiosk for free, or maybe for virtually nothing. Afterwards, he expands his business [without permission] and also takes over adjacent public space. The municipality turns a blind eye.”
The city of Netanya has not been investigated, nor has the judicial system.
Barabi is only the tip of hit and run iceberg.
In February 2012, 19-year-old Israeli soldier Manesh Yazachu was run over by not one, but two drivers, who both fled the scene. The people who join the IDF wanting to serve the country of their dreams surely don’t expect their army service to result in their being murdered by a coterie of hit and run drivers.
As disgusting is the story of the ATV hit and run driver who ran down a group of Israeli athletes. Fifteen-year-old Tigist Bito and Olympic hopeful Radait Baltat described being attacked and seriously injured by the ATV driver after they dared to ask him to stop driving at high speeds where they were training near Kibbutz Givat Brenner.
Yaniv Fierovskin was arrested and charged by police on September 4, and has re-enacted the event, claiming “I wanted to make a point to them, but the ATV betrayed me and hit them.”
Really, Yaniv? Then why did you flee the scene? Like Barabi and the murderers who killed Manesh Yazachu, he lives in a country of hit and run drivers, where sentences are light and where municipalities award criminality by giving out free land and businesses to rehabilitate criminals.
We need to think differently. We need laws that send hit and run drivers to prison for life when their actions result in death. We need laws that send the ATV drivers who intimidate Olympic athletes to prison for many years for fleeing the scene of an accident, so that people in this country understand that running over anyone, ever, never mind athletes and soldiers, is not acceptable behavior and that one will pay for it.
Several days ago Israeli soldier Natanel Yahalomi was murdered at the Egyptian border. He was killed in an ambush while under orders to provide water to African migrants who had congregated at the border. The migrants were there perhaps through the cunning of the terrorists who urged them onward, or because they had been told by others they might be let in if they just camped out in front of the media cameras at the border.
Recently the UN High Commissioner on Refugees had urged Israel to accept in these refugees.
To stop this charade re-occuring we should familiarize ourselves with the actual UN document pertaining to the migrants, the 1951 Convention on Refugees: “the grant of asylum may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries, and that a satisfactory solution of a problem of which the United Nations has recognized the international scope and nature cannot therefore be achieved without international co-operation.”
Furthermore, article 31: “refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.”
Egypt, a signatory to the convention, must be held to the same standards as Israel, and Israel must demand that preamble of this convention be upheld; that the migrants who enter illegally are an undue burden, they do not present themselves without delay to authorities, and they should be deported, or perhaps sent onwards to Europe.
According to Prime Minister Recip Erdogan of Turkey, Israel recently sent “the richest Jewish man in the world [to us] a couple of months ago.” What was the reason? “He was supposed to be [the] intercessor” in relations. Evidently it didn’t work, because Erdogan felt free to simply make fun of the event. Perhaps it would have been better to have sent the poorest Jew, to have rounded up some lice-ridden, pot-smoking loser in East Los Angeles and encouraged him to go smooth out relations with the Turks.
Whoever is sent to smooth over relations, Israel should remember that the ball is in Turkey’s hands, and comments like these show the efforts are largely fruitless.