Politicians fight over setting the clock back

100,000 sign petition to extend daylight savings time until November; Yishai offers compromise to reverse daylight savings after one week.

Yishai (photo credit: AP)
(photo credit: AP)
With the political leadership consumed by significant issues such as negotiations with the Palestinians and the appointment of the new chief of General Staff, MKs and ministers alike sparred on Sunday over a no-less-pressing issue: why Israel is preparing for winter by switching from daylight savings time before the first rainclouds have appeared on the horizon.
Politicians on the Right and Left attacked and defended the traditional practice in Israel of switching to standard (winter) time during the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, thereby making sunset earlier on the fast day and synagogue services shorter.
The fast itself is still 25 hours long in any case.
This year, the switch occurs particularly early in autumn, as the Jewish New Year is celebrated in the second week of September.
More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition that calls on the public to ignore the start of standard time and operate according to daylight savings time until November.
“Schools, businesses, public institutes, families and other bodies – please continue operating as if the clock has not been moved back,” reads the petition.
According to business leaders and the petition’s organizers, daylight savings time costs the economy millions of shekels for the economy and increases the number of road accidents due to the added time spent driving in the dark.
As for the religious issue of setting the clock back before Yom Kippur, the petition proclaims that “even this pathetic excuse is completely warped, since the fast lasts 25 hours in any case, and moving the clock only results in warmer hours for those fasting and praying.
“Disregard the moving of the clock and maybe finally our elected officials will realize they work for us and not the other way around,” the petition continues.
Business owners said that the switch, which will mean that the sun will set before 6 p.m., forces them to turn lights on early and thus costs them money.
Finance Ministry officials said that the estimated expense to the economy of the early changeover was NIS 10 million – not a significant cost, said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud).
The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce announced that they plan to ignore the change, and to continue working according to daylight savings time.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) offered a compromise early on Sunday afternoon.
“There are all kinds of ideas. It could be that on Yom Kippur, we will go to the winter clock, and then the next week we could go back.”
Yishai is reportedly thinking over the idea of reviewing the law following the holiday season, and is considered likely to move the scheduled date in 2011 to November.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) also favors delaying the switch. Over the weekend, he announced that he would submit a bill to extend daylight savings time to the last Sunday before November 1.
Horowitz emphasized that beyond the financial benefits of maintaining daylight savings time, it would also increase road safety, as commuters travel home in daylight.
“Daylight savings time is the right thing most days of the year,” Horowitz said. “It is correct for our habits, saves electricity, and increases economic productivity.
There is no logic in beginning standard time in September, long weeks before the rest of the world moves the clocks, and in the midst of long, hot days.
“It is unfortunate that this year, too, because of religious coercion – and it is impossible to understand the connection between religion and this issue – daylight savings time will end before autumn begins,” Horowitz added.
“The time has come to stop surrendering to illogical decisions, and to correct this situation that costs us tens of millions of shekels.”
But Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkovitz (Habayit Hayehudi) denied that the clockchanging fight had any connection to friction between religious and secular Jews.
“The early transition to the winter clock does not help religious or traditional people, and I do not see any reason not to leave daylight savings time and to create savings in the economy,” he said.
“It is not clear why the daylight savings time issue has gained the tenor of a struggle between religious and secular people. It could be that politicians on both sides have climbed up a tall ladder and don’t know how to get back down again, but I do not find any element in this debate that is a Jewish issue. The vast majority of the nation, for whom the Yom Kippur fast is important, will fast no matter what, and the time frame of the fast is not important.”
Israel has a very short period of daylight savings time, relative to Western countries. In the United States, daylight savings time lasts for 238 days, in the member states of the European Union it lasts for 218 days, but in Israel, daylight savings time lasts fewer than 180 days every year.
The Manufacturers Association provides data every year on the damage suffered by the economy as a result of limiting daylight saving time. The association, however, declined to comment on its view regarding the petition.
“The association does not deal with matters pertaining to religion and state,” a statement by the group said.