Why do we still use daylight saving? • By CARMIT SAPIR WEITZ
The recent decision by the European Commission to recommend that EU countries abolish daylight saving time was greeted with great fanfare in Israel. In light of our recent transition to winter time, Meretz MKs Tamar Zandberg, Ilan Gilon, Esawi Frej, Michal Rozin and Mossi Raz submitted a bill to keep daylight saving time all year round.
“Not switching the clocks every spring and fall will enable citizens to continue on with their daily activities and not have their schedules disrupted twice a year,” they explained. “The main goal of daylight saving was to take advantage of daylight hours to the best of our ability.”
Numerous studies carried out in Israel and other countries claim that daylight saving helps save tens of millions of shekels in energy costs since it leads to greater output. They also indicate that it reduces the number of traffic accidents. A third claim is that daylight saving time enables people to enjoy an extra hour of light.
“Now that we’ve changed the clocks to winter time, at 5 p.m., when parents pick up their children from school and kindergarten, they won’t be able to take them to the park because it’s dark out already,” laments Zandberg. “Not to mention that we could also be saving another hour’s worth of electricity every day. In Europe, they’ve already figured out that they can improve their quality of life by adding another hour of sunlight in the winter. There’s no reason we shouldn’t benefit from this in Israel, too. It would be so wonderful if we could keep the same time all year round.”
The EU recommendation was made after surveying 4.6 million EU residents, 84% of whom supported canceling the hour change. Turkey, Russia and Iceland have already decided to keep the same time all year long. There has been much controversy behind this practice for years. The original idea is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who first introduced the practice in 1784. In 1895, New Zealand scientist George Hudson claimed that the practice would save energy, and in 1916, Germany was the first country to implement daylight saving time following a coal shortage. Soon thereafter, Australia, the US and Turkey followed suit.
Daylight saving time was introduced to Palestine in 1940 during the British Mandate period, and with the establishment of the State of Israel, it was decided to continue following this practice. In 1958, however, daylight saving was discontinued until then interior minister Yosef Burg reintroduced it in 1974, and then overturned his decision in 1976. At this point, the High Court of Justice ruled that Israel would follow daylight saving time. In 1992, the Time Determination Act was passed, which stated that summer time would last at least 150 days. A minor amendment was added in 2005.
A number of committees investigated the pros and cons of using daylight saving, in particular its effect on electricity, the economy, theaters and education. A number of mothers claimed that putting their children to sleep while it was still light outside was extremely difficult. One committee recommended limiting summer hours to June through September, while another recommended leaving it in the current form, but carrying out an additional scientific study.
“Contrary to popular opinion, daylight saving does not have any significant economic considerations,” says Erez Zadok, an economist and CEO of Aviv Funds. “NIS 300 million might seem like a large amount, but it is insignificant compared with the amount of energy we’d save, improvements in road safety and overall enhanced quality of life. Surveys carried out in Europe and the US show that most people are in favor of foregoing the biannual time
change. Even the Abuav Committee determined in 2013 that it’s not a religious issue, but a matter of quality of life.”
“Studies show that the number of road accidents in the dark mornings increase slightly, but the number of accidents occurring in the afternoons when there’s more light was reduced significantly,” Zadok continues. “In addition, a study carried out in the US shows that there’s a 25% increase in heart attacks in the week following the time change. In Europe, in the three days following the time change, there was a 5% increase in heart attacks.
“In fact, energy use was found to be a less significant factor,” says Zadok. “In some countries, daylight saving brought about an increase in energy use, but in others there was no difference or even savings. It appears that many countries around the world are preparing to cancel daylight saving since it is the will of the citizens.”
In Israel, religious considerations also play an important role in decisions regarding daylight saving. Some claim that canceling the current format would make it difficult for religious men to get to morning prayers on time. However, after consulting with rabbis, the most recent committee decided that it is not a halachic issue in any way or form.
“Over the years, daylight saving was perceived as an issue on which the religious and secular communities clashed,” says Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch, dean of Schechter Rabbinical Seminary. “But as with all issues, there are both pros and cons. For example, do people prefer to have more light in the morning or more light at the end of the day?”
And what about the claim that religious people benefit from daylight saving time?
“This is not true,” Novis-Deutsch says. “Granted, it does enable people to pray early in the morning and then still have time to take their children to school and get to work on time. But instead of continuing to treat this issue as a religious–secular conflict and prolonging the power struggle, we should engage in dialogue, consider all the aspects and find an interim solution, such as limiting the period to a minimum number of days.”
“Over time, the number of dissenters among religious Israelis has diminished,” says Ofer Arian, a senior political science lecturer at the Jezreel Valley Academic College. “It appears that the Israeli public is ready to cancel daylight saving time, and will be happy to avoid all the confusion the change in clock creates, such as sleeping difficulties, decline in output and the overall sense of discomfort that leads to frustration. All of this will be avoided if we leave the time intact all year long.”
OUT FOR the evening on Dizengoff, 1958.
DAY AND night in two Tel Aviv cafés: Enjoying refreshment on Ben-Yehuda Street, 1957 (left) and Atarim Square, 1980.
LEFT: ECONOMIST Erez Zadok.
MK TAMAR ZANDBERG.