Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Can Someone Please Explain To Me The Big Fuss Over Daylight Savings Time In Israel?

It is being reported in the news that daylight savings time is being extended in Israel the end of October, as it observed in many European countries and in the United States.

The situation with daylight savings time in Israel has been a contentious issue for a number of years.  In past years, the religious parties fought to have DST end before Yom Kippur -- the reasoning behind it being that having one less hour during the end of the fast (i.e. ending the fast at 6:00 instead of 7:00) makes it easier for people.

Of course, the entire argument is nonsense.  The fast of Yom Kippur lasts approximately 25 hours, regardless of whether it falls during daylight savings time or not.  If you're going to end the fast an hour "earlier," then it's going to start an hour earlier too.  And the idea that the hour is somehow shifted from the end of the fast to the beginning is just as fallacious -- if you're going to feel a certain degree of hunger and weakness after 25 hours of fasting, then you're going to feel that same weakness at the end of the fast -- whether it's 6:00 or 7:00.

Furthermore, let's argue, for the sake of argument, that the chareidim are correct -- that the fast is somehow easier if it occurs outside of DST.  Well, there's a simple solution for that as well -- just pretend it doesn't exist.   During Yom Kippur, it's not like you have any outside appointments to keep, buses to catch or meetings to make.  On Yom Kippur, you're most likely going to be in only two places -- in shul and at home.      So, simply pretend that, for Yom Kippur, DST doesn't exist.  Turn your clocks back an hour (or simply pretend to).  If sunset happens at 7:00, you call it 6:00.  If you would normally daven Shacharis at 8:00AM on Yom Kippur, then start at 8:00 standard time (which would be 7:00AM DST).

It's not like there's an official government official going around checking the shul's clocks to make sure they adhere to DST.  So simply change your clock, or mentally subtract an hour from it for the day.  This way the chareidim can have Yom Kippur their way and everyone else can be on DST as they wish.

So, why is this such a political battle every year?

The Wolf

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Will Recognizing Yeshiva Study As A College Degree Solve Problems In Israel?

UPDATE (5/13/2013):

Man, oh man, did I blow it with this one.  Obviously, I was completely ignorant of the nature of college education in Israel and just assumed it was like the US model.  Thanks to my commentators for correcting me on this.  I'll make sure my next post isn't nearly as flawed.

Original Post:
The following news item appeared on YWN:

MK (Yahadut Hatorah) Rabbi Yisrael Eichler presented a query to Minister of Industry & Trade (Bayit Yehudi) Naftali Bennett. He explained that Israel’s civil service does not recognize yeshiva study, and as a result, chareidim are barred from apply for many jobs. He explains they are told that since they lack a bagrut (matriculation) diploma and an academic education, they are not qualified to apply for civil service positions. Eichler feels that limud Torah should be credited as an equivalent for in most cases, the chareidim are indeed qualified for the public sector positions but lack the paperwork under the current requirements.

Rabbi Eicher certainly has a point.  Torah study (especially in Israel) should be no worse than studying history, music or art.  The study in many yeshivos can certainly be intense and there is no question that in the more elite yeshivos, the level of study could certainly qualify one for an undergraduate degree.

Rabbi Eichler then goes on to state that because yeshivos cannot issue degrees, their "graduates" earn less in the marketplace and this is a form of discrimination.

However, there are two problems that I find with Rabbi Eichler's query:

1.  Undergraduate degrees are designed to produce well-rounded students.  For example, an accounting major does not *only* study accounting.  In most universities, an undergraduate student has to take a set of courses in various subjects (English [in the US], history, arts, basic sciences, etc.) regardless of their major.  There are no accredited schools that I know of that give an undergraduate degree in Biology (just to pick an example) while allowing the students to only take Biology (and other science) courses.  To meet this requirement, a yeshiva would have to teach other non-Torah subjects as well to produce a well-rounded student - something I don't see most (if any) Chareidi yeshivos in Israel doing.

2.  Let me preface this part by saying that I could be wrong here simply because I don't know about Israeli employment matters -- so if I'm wrong, please feel free to chime in and let me know.

If I understand correctly, the Israeli government does not mandate higher salaries for college graduates.  If a company needs someone to answer phones, they are going to pay an employee whatever they feel is appropriate -- regardless of whether or not that person has a college degree.  Simply having a college degree does not necessarily produce higher salaries.  What produces higher salaries, ultimately, is a demand for the skills of the worker and the relative scarcity of those skills.  Simply possessing a college degree in Talmudic studies will generally not lead to higher salaries for that person (unless, of course, the person is applying for a job where their Talmudic studies are relevant and germane to the job).  Recognizing four years study as a college degree will not magically open up doors for chareidim in the marketplace.*

The Wolf

* That being said, I do realize that there *are* benefits that may come with simply having an undergraduate degree with regard to some government jobs and the ability to apply to graduate schools.  But I don't see many chareidim applying to graduate schools outside of the yeshiva system and I doubt there are enough government jobs to employ large swaths of the chareidi society.