We're so smart
by Jonathan Rosenblum
May 30, 2004
When a person responds to a particular problem differently from anyone else in the world, two possibilities present themselves: Either he is missing something, or else he is just smarter than everyone else. Certainly the latter possibility cannot be dismissed out of hand. We are known collectively as òáøééí (Ivrim) because our ancestor Avraham stood on one side of the river – îòáø äðäø – and all the world on the other.
Yet it is rather remarkable how quick Israel is as a nation to assume that it has thought more deeply and wisely than every other country. The dismal academic results of our students have done nothing to dampen our intellectual self-confidence.
So it is, for instance, with our system of judicial selection, which alone among the democracies of the world gives our Supreme Court justices the power to appoint their successors. We are regularly informed that our system is the best in the world and the envy of all other countries, which, surprisingly, have nevertheless chosen not to emulate us.
And so it was with respect to the government’s recent decision to adopt Interior Minister Avraham Poraz’s proposal to make daylight savings time year around and to double it during the summer months. No country in the world does so. But as always we know better.
The rationale for the decision boils down to little more than the following: If six months of daylight savings time is good, 12 months will be twice as good. Our ministers seem never to have heard of the law of diminishing returns or seen a bell curve. Nor does it seem to have occurred to them that rather than saving energy costs, the later sunrise in the winter will increase the morning heating costs of businesses and industries.
In response to the Arab oil embargo of 1973, the United States adopted daylight savings time in the winter for one year, but quickly abandoned the experiment in the face of popular discontent. The National Bureau of Statistics found a statistically significant rise during this period in fatal morning traffic accidents involving school children, who were going to school in the dark in the winter.
The savings projected from the Poraz proposal are trivial – 60 million shekels a year. If energy savings were the goal, mandatory carpooling or no drive days would result in energy savings many times greater. But, of course, the public would never tolerate the inconvenience involved.
One suspects, then, that what recommended the plan to Poraz was the misery it will inflict on the religious public. After all, if some chareidi MKs squawked so loudly about something trivial as whether the clocks are turned back before Yom Kippur, just imagine how they’ll scream over year around daylight savings time.
It is indeed a fine thing to make religious Jews miserable and amusing to think of the children unable to join their parents around the Shabbat table in the summer because the Shabbat meal begins too late (10:00 p.m. in June) or to ever stay up late enough to recite the Maariv prayers. And it is equally amusing to think of how religious Jews will be unable to reach all those jobs Shinui wants them to take because it is impossible to pray before 7:00 a.m. for much of the year.
If it were only a question of making religious Jews suffer, there would be a great deal to commend the Poraz proposal. The likelihood, however, that the rest of us – like parents everywhere else in the world – will soon grow weary of trying to get our children to sleep while the sun is still shining or of waking them up and sending them off to school while it is still dark makes this particular indulgence in a little harmless beard pulling too risky.
Related Topics: Israeli Society
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