Dozens of protestors gathered in Tel Aviv‘s Rabin Square last Saturday night as Daylight Saving Time (DST) was set to end. They claimed Israel’s policy of ending DST prior to Yom Kippur favors the ultra-Orthodox sector of the population over practical interests of the secular and modern Orthodox majority.
Their switch to winter time happens weeks before the USA, Europe and its Middle Eastern neighbors make the change (Europe and Jordan flip on October 28; the USA and Canada on November 4). It prematurely darkens the days and raises temperatures among mainstream Israelis who bristle at this bow to religious conservatives.
Israeli law dictates that clocks change on the Saturday before Yom Kippur
Advocates maintain that shortening the day ahead of Yom Kippur makes it easier for those observing the 25-hour fast on the holiest day of the Jewish year. Although the duration of that fast doesn’t change, because the sun now sets an hour earlier, the most difficult fasting period is foreshortened.
“This year, the Israeli public will lose hours of sunlight because of an inexplicable caprice,” Knesset Member (KM) Nitzan Horowitz told the Jerusalem Post. If the law isn’t changed, DST will end on September 8 next year, almost two months before most of the world.”
Some demonstrators wore bathing suits, slathered on sunscreen and played beach games to illustrate that turning back the clocks back while it’s still technically summer diminishes their quality of life due to lost daylight hours.
Dr. Shimon Eckhouse, who launched a campaign two years ago against the early time change, says the practice “will shorten quality time that parents have with their children and cost the Israeli economy millions of shekels,” he told The Times of Israel. He estimates that the time shift costs over $7 million in electricity bills alone.
Almost 400,000 people have signed a petition calling for an extension of DST beyond October 1. “The decision [to change the clocks back before Yom Kippur] means millions of working citizens in Israel will return home from work in the dark, and will rise in the morning after the sun has warmed up our already-hot country,” says the petition.
Interior Committee chairman Amnon Cohen has said “Once again, Israel is at the bottom of the list of DST length, even though the summer is long here and we can use the many hours of light in order to save electricity, decrease traffic accidents and gain another hour of light in the afternoon,” he added.
“The Interior Minister is forcing all of Israel to lose hours of light and waste electricity”, said MK Ronit Tirosh.
Yom Kippur, which begins on Tuesday evening, is marked by a sundown-to-sundown fast. Orthodox religious parties are behind the time change, wanting to decrease the number of waking hours for those observing the fast.
In recent months, extremist sects within the ultra-Orthodox community have been criticized for attempted bans on gender-mixing on public buses, city sidewalks and other public spaces. In Jerusalem, advertisements depicting contemporary women have been removed from buses and billboards in anticipation of vandalism by extremists.
These attempts to impose orthodox values have fueled a clash between the two Israeli cultures. Josef Federman wrote in USA Today, “On one hand, the country continues to be a high-tech powerhouse with liberal values that have turned Tel Aviv into a gay mecca. On the other hand, the ultra-Orthodox, with their high birthrates, have grown increasingly outspoken and assertive.”
“Israel is proving once again that it is living in the dark,” said Tirosh.
Image of people in early twilight by Shutterstock