Forward Thinking

Fasting in Israel's Heatwave

By Nathan Jeffay

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Israel is getting ready for the hottest and longest Yom Kippur for decades.

Well, not actually longer than normal, but it will feel longer. Israel has long adjusted the clock to wintertime ahead of the fast, so that it finishes some time between six and seven pm, rather than between seven and eight. But following intense controversy in recent years, with critics saying that the practice ushers in dark winter evenings too early, and in doing so wastes electricity on extra lighting, the government resolved to wait this year.

As for the temperature, partly because it’s so early in the secular calendar this year and partly because there is a mini-heat wave, temperatures will hit 100 Fahrenheit in some parts of Israel, making refraining from drinking extra difficult.

But Yom Kippur will be easier than the minor fast day, the Fast of Gedaliah, which fell on Sunday. Though it’s a shorter fast that Yom Kippur — it starts at dawn as opposed to in the evening — some Israelis went in to that fast unprepared.

There was much discussion of the smart phone bug that stemmed from Israel’s decision to delay the clock change. Many smart phones didn’t know that the clocks aren’t changing yet, and switched to wintertime anyway. The result: lots of people woke up late and found themselves late for work.

But for people who were fasting on Sunday, the story was sorrier. Imagine sitting down for your pre-fast meal today only to be told the meal is off — it’d too late to eat.

As Sunday’s fast started at dawn it’s okay to wake up early and eat and drink. But people who relied on their smart phones to wake them up dragged themselves up at an unearthly hour ready to prepare, only to find that their phone had woken them up late, and that it was already light and too late to eat.

As one unhappy faster put it to me, smart hones don’t seem so smart when they send you off to work both late and hungry.


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