Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Moving Clocks Forward - Pros and Cons - Religious Dispute in Israel

Energy Study: Moving Clocks Forward a Waste
March 27, '08

( Israel moves it clocks forward at 2 a.m. Friday morning, but Daylight Savings Time ("summer time") wastes more energy than it saves, according to research in the state of Indiana. As recently as two years ago most of Indiana's counties refused to move their clocks forward in the spring. The resulting division of the population enabled researchers to compare energy use by those on summer time with those who did not change their clocks.

Residential electricity usage actually increased between 1-4 percent, and social costs from increased emissions were estimated at between $1.6 million and $5.3 million per year, according the research by University of California economics professor Matthew Kotchen. The reduced cost of lighting in afternoons during daylight saving time was more than offset by the higher air conditioning costs on hot afternoons and increased heating costs on cool mornings.

The Pros and Cons of Daylight Savings Time in Israel

March 27, '08
by Hillel Fendel

( The Manufacturers Association says the upcoming changeover to Daylight Saving Time (DST) will save the economy 120 million shekels ($35 million). Others say that most of these savings will be canceled out in other ways, and that the twice-yearly change of clocks is a waste of effort.

The clocks will change this Friday morning, March 29, when 2:00 becomes 3:00. The change will be in effect for 191 days, as stipulated by law in an interesting combination of the secular and Jewish calendars: from the Friday before April 2 until the Sunday before Yom Kippur.

Moshe Cohen, Chairman of the Energy Committee of the Manufacturers Association, claims that the extra hour of overlapping waking and sunlight time will result in a drop of electricity consumption by a daily average of 0.6%. This drop, which translates into 73 million shekels, is due to decreased use of lighting and air conditioning.

In addition, Cohen says, nationwide production and sales will increase, and traffic accidents will decrease.

Others Say...
This is only one side of the story, however. As in most of the world, the introduction of Daylight Saving Time in Israel has not been without controversy. Detractors say that though the increased daylight may render driving safer, it also increases the amount of driving, thus largely canceling out the gain in safety. Business interests have traditionally supported DST, as it increases shopping - and trips to the store.

In addition, the amount of energy saving in the United States has been estimated at only $3 per household, leaving many to wonder if it is worth the bother.

In Israel, however, the largest point of contention has concerned religious observance. Daylight saving time during the late summer and autumn means that the Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur fasts end later, and that the midnight penitential prayers (Selichot) recited before the High Holidays begin earlier. More significantly, extra months of daylight saving time mean that often, worshipers cannot recite post-dawn morning prayers in a timely fashion before they have to go to work.

Up to the Interior Minister
The issue came to a head in the late 1990s, when the hareidi-religious Shas party ran the Interior Ministry; one year, then-Minister Eli Suissa made a unilateral decision to end DST a month early for the above reasons, bringing public secular wrath upon him. Then-MK Yossi Sarid, head of the anti-religious Meretz party at the time, said, ''Minister Suissa thinks he is G-d. G-d says: 'Let there be light,' and there is light... It's not enough that [Suissa] represents G-d, he is G-d himself. He says: 'Let there be darkness' in the middle of the summer, and he wants us to live in darkness.''

In 2004, when the anti-religious Shinui party controlled the Interior Ministry, Minister Avraham Poraz got back at the religious public. Just before his firing by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon [together with the other Shinui ministers, for voting against the budget] took effect, Poraz ordered the instatement of DST from March until the end of October, without regard for Jewish holidays.

The issue was finally resolved legally in 2005, when a law was passed determining the exact duration of DST, and removing the decision from the hands of the Interior Minister.

Israel Expands Daylight Time, and a Religious Dispute Erupts

Published: February 17, 2000

Daring single-handedly to alter a calendar that is as politically sensitive as everything else here, Interior Minister Natan Sharansky decreed today that ''summer time'' will be longer this year by 34 days.

In a country where even the issue of daylight saving time is contentious, that was a provocative decision, playing into a long-running battle between secular Israelis and some religious Jews.

Daylight time, what Israelis refer to as summer time, will start earlier in the spring and extend almost a month further into the fall, Mr. Sharansky said. That rescinds a tradition of accommodating the prayer schedules of some religious Jews that lead up to the High Holy Days in September, a tradition that secular Israelis have long resented as subordinating the routines of the majority to the special rituals of a minority.

But religious politicians did not immediately react. They were too busy confronting Mr. Sharansky, a Russian immigrant leader, on another decision. Earlier this week, Mr. Sharansky said his ministry would begin recognizing and registering civil marriages performed at foreign consulates in Israel.

Such marriages, which only some consulates perform, make it possible for immigrants here who are not recognized as Jewish to marry Israelis. Under Israeli law, only religious weddings are permitted, and what the rabbis see as intermarriages are forbidden.

Mr. Sharansky took over the Interior Ministry from Shas, an ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party, after years of friction between the Russian immigrants whom he represents and the Shas bureaucrats who had the power to grant and deny them citizenship and marriage licenses.

Wresting the ministry from Shas was part of Prime Minister Ehud Barak's election platform, and taking control of it was Mr. Sharansky's main plank. Although Mr. Sharansky's dealings with Shas have been strained, his relations with other religious political groups have been based on mutual respect. Mr. Sharansky is an observant Jew, and many of the religious politicians believed that he respected them. But his recommendation on consular marriages took them by surprise.

Orthodox politicians accused Mr. Sharansky of trying to upset the status quo relationship between religion and state.

''I ask you to declare here, in this dignified forum, that you have reconsidered this issue and that you are canceling this guideline,'' Moshe Gafney, a member of Parliament from the United Torah Judaism faction, asked Mr. Sharansky in a meeting today.

''Aren't you willing to invest any effort in finding some sort of solution for people who presently have no solution?'' Mr. Sharansky responded, referring to Russian immigrants who are prohibited from marrying other Israelis because they are not Jewish. Defending his decision on changing the daylight-time calendar, Mr. Sharansky said that the ''preservation of life was the guiding principle'' that pushed him to make the change, even if it upset religious Jews.

Last year, daylight time ended on Sept. 3, and Israel moved into ''winter time.'' That meant that in the dog days of early September, the Sun rose before the workday started and set during the afternoon rush hour.

A study by the Technion Institute proved to him, Mr. Sharansky said, that an additional hour of late-afternoon light would lower traffic accidents 9 percent and fatal ones 13 percent.

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