Thursday, October 31, 2013

Daylight Savings Time in Israel

For years, Daylight Savings Time was the subject of a huge fight in the Jewish State. The Interior Ministry, under the control of chareidi parties, routinely rolled the clock back on the Saturday night before Yom Kippur, in order for the fast to end an hour "earlier" than usual. This, of course, prompted outrage from secular Israelis who claimed that the Chareidim were advancing their own religious agenda at the expense of the broader society. Each year, they'd get into a fight, promise to "study" the issue, and then, after exhaustive study, keep the status quo. Welcome to Israel.
This year things finally changed. Actually, they changed last year - but the change only went into effect this year. Instead of changing the clocks in September, we kept Daylight Savings time for an extra six weeks, and only changed the clock this past Saturday night. And...the sky hasn't fallen. There weren't widespread reports of famished Israelis breaking their fasts at ten minutes before 7:00pm on Yom Kippur.
The one place Israelis felt the change was on our cellphones and computers. For some reason, my phone couldn't adjust itself properly, and was consistently an hour off. For the last month, my online calendar was sometimes an hour off, sometimes not. I wondered why they couldn't just reset the clocks to change later, like everyone else. Is it that hard to change the clocks on the system?
I never really understood the Yom Kippur issue. Last I checked, the fast lasts for twenty-five hours. If you start the fast at 5pm, it lasts for 25 hours, and if you start it an hour later, at 6pm, as we did this year, it still lasts for 25 hours.
In fact, I kind of like the longer Daylight Savings Time.
I liked driving home at 5:00pm when it was still light, instead of having night fall before my commute home. I liked making it home for Ma'ariv, which I now cannot do. I enjoyed that extra hour of daylight in the afternoon, instead of "wasting" it in the morning.
True, the sun rose significantly later in the morning (about an hour), making life more challenging for those who schedule requires them to get up early and daven. It can be challenging getting the kids out of bed when the sun hasn't fully risen. And some rabbis complained that it was pitch black when they got to shul in the morning. (The government did pass regulations allowing men to arrive late to work if they needed to daven later than normal though. What a country!)
I don't think that the extra daylight saves any energy, by the way. I just like it better.
But, I would make one suggestion. Instead of ending standard time at the end of March, I think that we should wait until after the first night of Pesach. The Pesach Seder is a ritual observed by the vast majority of Israelis. On that evening, there's a legitimate halachic argument to begin the Seder as early as possible, to include the children for as long as possible. It really does make a difference whether you start the Seder at 7:00pm or at 8:00pm.