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The world's only ethnic time zone

For the past month, the Holy Land was the only place in the world where time zones are delineated not by geography but by ethnicity. 

World time zones (By Shutterstock.com)

As of this morning, for the first time in a month, all the residents of the Holy Land are living in the same time zone. In late September, the Palestinian Authority switched to winter time, but the West Bank’s Israeli settlers continued living in line with Israel’s clock, which only made the switch today. Thus, for one month, the West Bank became the only place in the world where time is not delineated by geography but rather by ethnicity: different people went about their lives on different clocks, despite the fact that they live in such close proximity to each other within the same territory.

In other words (For the sake of clarifying such strange reality, I add here with thanks a point used in the comments by reader Haifawi) a visitor to the West Bank would be in a different time zone, depending on whether he or she was with Jews or non-Jews.

Settlers today make up over 15 percent of the West Bank population. This means that about every sixth West Bank resident thought an hour ahead of the other five. Drivers passing each other on Route 60 drove in different time zones, depending on the color of their license plates. Meanwhile, while Israelis on both sides of the Green Line shared the same clock, the Palestinian people was divided in, and by, the dimension of time. Palestinians in Israel and East Jerusalem continued to live according to Israeli time, while Gaza went with Ramallah, switching off daylight savings on September 26.

The lives of West Bank Palestinians who work in settlements or with Israelis, or who have any connection at all with Palestinian citizens of Israel or East Jerusalem residents, became highly complicated. Some of them moved between time zones a few times a day. Many had to wake up at unthinkable hours in order to travel to work across the wrinkle of time. Palestinians who live on one side of the separation barrier and work on the other must anyway calculate the travel time to the checkpoint and the wait at it; this month they were forced to add an extra hour to that.

Ironically, the PA’s early change to winter time was meant to provide synchronicity with Israel. In recent years, Israel’s religious Jewish parties pushed for summer time to end ahead of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, in order to shorten the fast and ease the lives of the faithful. This year, with no ultra-Orthodox parties in Netanyahu’s coalition, the date was changed at the last moment. The Palestinians did not adhere to the change, perhaps fearing that a further Israeli change of heart would force them to switch the date once more, and the bizarre delay was created.

In my work as tour guide, I moved between the two clocks all month. Often I was joined by dozens of tour participants, headed from Jerusalem to meet a speaker in Hebron or Nablus, at an hour on which no one was clear. The experience was annoying at times, funny at others. It was far more tolerable than other phenomena of the occupation, but around these parts we long ago learned to cheer the tiniest changes for the better. Today, with the synchronizing of the clocks, such change has occured: the rate of absurdity dropped by a tick.

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    1. Roland Rance

      During the first Intifada, the United Leadership introduced a different timezone for Palestine. This caused endless problems for those of us working, or trying to, on both sides of the Green Line.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Interesting that you never mention the 50% (or more) Palestinians who live in exile beyond the borders of Israel and its occupied territories (I’m including Gaza which is under perpetual siege, if not occupied). Are they too much of a remote abstraction to be included in articles by Jewish writers?

      Reply to Comment
      • I didn’t mention Diaspora Jews either, and while I acknowledge that these two groups are not necessarily comparable, the choice still is still inevitable. Things between the Jordan and the sea are so complicated as they are, sometimes you really can’t bring Beirut, Paris and Santiago de Chile into it.

        Reply to Comment
      • Marcos

        Jack, Did you read the article? If so, your comment is nonsensical. And you seem to harbor an anti- jewish sentiment by your cheap shop on this author. Let’s build bridges rather than cause distractions.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Tim Dice

      The US State of Arizona does not follow Daylight Savings Time, but the Navajo Reservation within the state does. Is the author certain that the time zone in the West Bank is all that unique?

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        The Navajo reservation is a geopolitical entity. Unlike, say the West Bank, where politics are completely tied to ethnicity. (So for example, in Area C which is politically under the full jurisdiction of the IDF, you would be in a different time depending on whether you were with Jews or non-Jews).

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Your distinction is invalid. The Palestinian Authority is very much a geopolitical entity, hence its ability to establish its own time zone separately from Israel.

          Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            O really? tell me, who sets the time zone in Palestinian villages in Area C? who do the residents go for fire/police/ambulance services? who approves the issuance of identity documents? who issues building permits?

            Reply to Comment
    4. Ohad F

      Of all the cheap shots taken on the pages of this blog, this here article, is probably among the top. And why so, do you ask? Because of the claim of trying to sync the clocks of the PA with those of Israel.

      It was all too well known that this year, for the first time in a long while, the DST will only take place on October 27th. It was published well ahead of time (when the knesset voted on the issue) and regurgitated over and over. Not a soul living in Israel didn’t know that.

      Except, that is, for the 2 million souls living “right next door” and speaking Hebrew perfectly (when it suits them, that is to say, when no foreign cameras are present).

      If the PA’s leadership (whomever they may be, that is) decides to switch the DST off at a certain day… well, that’s their right ad prerogative. Blaming Israel for the async in times due to a Palestinian decision? Cheap shot, misinformed but nothing I wouldn’t expect from the writers of this blog.

      How’s about some accountability and taking responsibility for one’s own actions (even when said one is the PA)?

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        The article isn’t taking any cheap shots. It is simply illustrating an outcome from the unique colonial regime in the West Bank. It’s not a ‘PA’ thing. There shouldn’t BE a PA. Just either a ‘State of Palestine’ (and an Israel) or just an ‘Israel.’
        The article is taking a shot at people living in the SAME TERRITORY under two time zones.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Now that’s just silly. There is a PA. It apparently has sufficient administrative power to establish and run its own time zone within the areas that it controls. So, yeah, it is a PA thing. You don’t like the PA but that is no reason to go off the rails pretending that it doesn’t exist or it “shouldn’t” exist, whatever that means.

          And putting ‘territory’ in capital letters doesn’t change the fact that there are two separate territories in the West Bank. One under the control of Israel. The other under the control of the PA.

          Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            All the territory is under the control of Israel.
            I’ve never seen IDF soldiers asking permission to enter Nablus.

            Reply to Comment
          • carl

            Yes Kolumn, the PA is your best ally to keep going with your beloved occupation (and feeling no shame for it).

            Reply to Comment
      • CigarButNoNice

        There’s no foul ruse the Arab imperialists and their left-wing Western supporters won’t employ to demonize the Jewish State and legitimize their aggression against it.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Sammur

      Our hours at my office in Ramallah are from 8-5PM. My colleague lives in Jerusalem. For one month, he had to wake up at 530AM Ramallah time (630AM Jerusalem time), make breakfast for his two daughters, drop them at school at around 630AM r.t. (730AM j.t.), cruise the streets for about an hour (or if his mom is up, he’d go and have a cup of coffee in her house) then make it to the office (late as usual) at around 815AM r.t. (720AM j.t.).

      Right now, it’s 820AM r.t. – j.t. and he’s still not here 😀

      Reply to Comment
      • Thanks. Very interesting.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Rami

      I’m just saying – time is not delineated by ‘ethnography’ (which is the anthropological practice of conducting field research), but rather by ethnicity (which is the catagorization of people into ethnic group). Thanks.

      Reply to Comment
    7. ish yehudi

      sounds like the PA is guilty of normalizing no? they really are pansies arent they…

      Reply to Comment
    8. The Trespasser

      Well, not as absurd as Palestinian student who built UAV’s (using EU or some other funds, obviously) and were about to load them with explosives and strike Israeli targets.

      Hamas also criticized the Palestinian forces for “hindering all the efforts of the resistance and protecting the security of the occupation.”

      A small plane, 2 meters wingspan, 2 meters long, 40-60 kg takeoff weight, can carry as much as 70% of its weight in payload, 20-30-40 kg. of explosive. Launch 5 and you wreak havok. They fly below 50 meters and are hardly seen or radars.

      What should Israel do, to not add to the level of absurdity? Shut down all aeronautics projects in Palestinian universities?

      Oh, I know – develop a new radar system, for low-flying targets, and make some profit.

      Reply to Comment
    9. I remember one spring during the First Intifada (1989 I think) when the Palestinians decided – in that case as a form of nonviolent assertion of resistance to Israeli rule – to change to Summer Time a month ahead of Israel. At the time, I was living in Jerusalem and attending Quaker Meeting in Ramallah. The first week after the change, I duly left an hour early, only to arrive at a locked meetinghouse. It seems that the Ramallah Friends, aiming not to inconvenience those coming from the Israeli time zone, had decided to hold Meeting a hour later. . . . Gave me time to grab a knafeh and coffee while waiting.

      Reply to Comment
    10. c9

      Actually no, Israel is not the only place where time divided along ethnic line… Xinjiang in China do this too.. and it’s not just for a month in a year, instead the time is different between different ethnic group for the entire year and it have been this way for many decades already. The time difference there is also two hours instead of one.

      Reply to Comment
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