Thursday 15 November 2012

Is it winter already?

I took a short hiatus, due to some local war. I'm sure you were worried for me, my blogfans, and indeed rockets were fired at Tel Aviv, but apparently they couldn't find anywhere to park.
And I thought of writing about the political shenanigans, again, in the run-up to the elections, but I blinked and one of the parties disappeared. I blinked again and one major party lurched rightwards, another blink and yet another party materialized as if by magic. I've given up blinking.

Indeed a week is a long time in politics. So said that great former prime minister of Britain, Harold Wilson. And how true. Why, it only takes a few minutes to stab a political foe in the back, or a crisis to unfurl, or a scandal to come out of hiding. A lot can happen in a week.
Creation, for example, only took six days, which, if you think about it, is quite a long time for a deity.
For us mere mortals, construction is a tricky business, and could take quite a while. A metropolitan light rail system for the Tel Aviv area, say, might take us 6 or 7 years, maybe even 10. Certainly no more than 15, and anyone who suggests that the Tel Aviv's been messing around with the plans for its desperately needed transport system for over 40 years should be ashamed of themselves. (Go to the back of the class, and think very carefully about what you've just implied.)

Back to creation. We read in that best-seller, the Bible (or the Tentateuch as we like to call it), that the One Above did the whole job in six days, including livestock, gnats, cirrus clouds and thrush. First He created light, because who on earth (and that's where He was, remember) can do a good job in the dark? (Please don't answer that one, it's not that type of blog). Then He went on, day by day, creating the waters and the waters (very easily confused) and then the trees and grasses, and by Day Four He'd created the sun. Which raises the question: What was the light that he created on Day One?

Now this isn't a theological blog either, so I won't attempt to answer that one.
But, as we all know, it took Him six days to complete the whole shebang, after which he rested, which is where we got the idea of cholent and shabbos shluf from.
Surely He could have done a faster job, if you think about it. But what was stopping him, was the fact that it got dark quite early at that time of year, and He hadn't had the wisdom of thinking up Daylight Saving Time, or Summertime, as George Gershwin likes to call it.
Who thought up the great idea, then? Well, some say it was a Brit named George Vernon Hudson, living in New Zealand. But do you honestly think the idea would come from New Zealand? I mean, what is there to do there other than count sheep?
Some say it was Benjamin Franklin, the US statesman and diplomat, though I'm sure he was far too busy flying kites for it to have been him. So I'm going for William Willett, a housebuilder from Surrey, who pushed the idea from 1909, though it never got off the ground until war broke out.
Yes, it was only during the First World War that countries, Britain among them, were searching for any means of saving money, and Daylight Savings Time was a saviour. So it started in Britain in 1916 when it lasted from May 21 to October 1. USA followed in 1918, though New Zealand didn't follow till 1927 (Being in the southern hemisphere does make it a little more confusing. Apparently, you have to turn the clocks forward whilst your back is turned, jump three times, and say 'my precious' in a gravelly voice).
Israel first had Daylight Saving Time in the 1940s, thanks to the Brits. Generally the "summer" that falls within the adjusted time period is shorter than everywhere else. And that is often blamed on the small religious parties in Knesset who make tenuous claims that summertime makes Yom Kippur far too dreary, or somehow makes kosher meat go rancid more quickly.
Photo: Patrick Seeger/dpa/Corbis

This year, summertime came to an abrupt halt on September 23, (in 2010, it ended on September 10th!!) when it was still hot and humid, and Mother Nature hadn't even packed away her summer sandals. The public ranted and raved, so to popular acclaim, the Knesset this month passed a bill that extended future Daylight Saving Time. Next year, it will last 191 days instead of the 177 days it did this year (though still far behind the 210 days in Europe or 238, noch, in the US).
What exactly made our politicians change their mind? Maybe, and here's a radical idea, maybe it is so close to our elections in January, that no party wanted to be seen dissing the widely popular move. So ever so quietly (only 27 MKs were around at the time) the Knesset passed the extended summertime.
But for the same reason, with an election looming, the government decided it couldn't go ahead with the budget for 2013. It'll just scrap the idea, and leave it all to the next government, that probably won't be formed until February. Meaning, they were too afraid that instead of the usual frenzy, with every party in the coalition threatening to resign unless it gets a few more billion for its constituents, there could actually have been responsible restraint from the politicians. So, putting their own interests first, we're heading into the new year with no state budget.
I know, the new year's not for another seven weeks, but as we all know, seven weeks is a very long time in politics.

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