Monday, September 13, 2010

How I Became a Time Zone

Sorry, I will not go into the history of the Israeli summer-time dispute. No time for it. I went to sleep one hour ahead of everyone else here and left some work undone which I should get to as soon as this rant is through.

I do remember there being some fuss over the time question when growing up in the eighties. The religious parties were altogether opposed to the implementing of a summer-time. My parents explained their worry that it would interfere with prayer schedules. I sided with them instantly. The whole concept of “moving the clock” seemed ridiculous.

It doesn’t seem ridiculous anymore. This year, when the government decided to end summer-time two months before the rest of the world, in order to ease the Yom-Kippur fast, which ends at sundown, I found myself confused. First of all, if you care so much for fasters, why not end summer-time early in August and be kind to fasting Muslims? Besides, people fast on Yom-Kippur in order to suffer, fulfilling the commendment “and ye shall afflict your souls” (Leviticus 23,27), so easing it up sort of defeats the purpose.

Even if we accept the merits of such move, assuming that the lives of several particularly pious older fasters may be saved, the Day of Atonement is only a single day. Could we not switch the clock only for that day? Even minister of Interior Eli Yishai proposed this as a compromise, when the debate heated up an the Knesset.

It died down since, all compromises were rejected and Israeli winter-time clocked in on the night of Saturday, September 11th. The religious parties hold Israeli coalition by the dials and I suspect that the entire summer-time fiasco is simply meant to prove this. I myself accepted the verdict with a grumble, as secular Israelis often do in such cases, as when we’re deprived of public transport on Saturdays or the right to import pork (a restriction that did wonders to the local pork industry).

Then this evening, when the suns last rays bid me farewell over the foam of nucturnal waves at 18:00, when that gloom of winter began settling into my heart still enveloped by a sweat-moistened shirt, I decided that I will not bow. My time will be that of our proper local time zone. I’ll arrive early to meetings, I’ll probably miss a few, never mind. I deserve to be a member of humanity and live according to its timeline. If I last on Yom-Kippur, the achievement will be greater and my bonding with the almighty firmer. It’s worth it.

My cellphone was resistant at first, but then I simply changed my timezone to Cairo (our proper time zone, from which we swayed!) My girlfriend, who actually deserves credit for this idea, having brought it up when hope for national sanity was still in the air, soon joined me. We are now autonomous of the rest of the country, which is pretty odd. We went to watch the late show last night and it was really screened rather late.

Upon returning home we learned that we are not alone. The city of Givatayim, a suburb of Tel-Aviv, is contemplating turning itself into a time zone. There’s a majority for it at the city council and it would take two weeks to pass the municipal law. That would still provide the mostly secular people of Givatayim with a month and a half of acceptable light management. It would also make Givatayim an environmental spearhead: the skewed time structure forces Israelis to waste one hour more of electricity each night than they would otherwise.

Do our legislators care for the environment? It doesn’t seem so. Do they like playing power games that cause damage to all communities (the secular one for obvious reasons, the religious – for being now the target of great animousity)? I’d say – yup. If only they could switch their clocks as I did and turn into earlybirds, that would benefit to us all. Such, after all, is the schedule that makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, and they’re a tad short on the last count.

(This was also posted on +972, a new local web initiative. Visit it!)


Anonymous said...

Leisure ...

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

W. H. Davies

Anonymous said...

The problem you here appears to be that time is relevant and relative.
em… I wonder… could this controversy and confusion over time zones be the answer to the question,

“Why are Israelis such notoriously bad time keepers?”