Between Israel and the West Bank … what time is it on the "green line"?

When the Palestinian territories go to winter time twenty-four hours before the Jewish state, just turn two hundred meters to Jerusalem to be late for an appointment …

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Silwan district, East Jerusalem, in April 2018.
Silwan district, East Jerusalem, April 2018. THOMAS COEX / AFP

I have an appointment in Bethlehem, Saturday, October 26th. At 1:30 pm I leave my home in Talpiot East, a peaceful outgrowth of an old industrial district in the south of Jerusalem, facing the old city and the Mount of Olives from a height.

At the end of my street, I check an Israeli route guidance application on my phone: it is 14:34. I'm late. How could an hour have passed, in the interval of about 200 meters that separates me from my door?

It will take me a moment to understand that the Palestinian territories have passed winter time tonight, while Israel will only do so tonight. During this Saturday, an hour separates the two entities. My house in Jerusalem is in Israel, right at the edge of the green line of demarcation, resulting from the 1949 armistice with Jordan, which no one today can pinpoint precisely. Beneath my windows is the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, in East Jerusalem, conquered and annexed by Israel after the 1967 war.

When you enter the valley by the road, the passage is obvious: at night, the street lights are spaced, we soon see nothing and potholes are multiplying in the asphalt. But my phone was misled by this proximity: it passed automatically last night at the Palestinian time, then the Israeli time once reached the end of my street.

Patchwork of time zones

In principle, I'm not late for my appointment. Sister Claire Bastier, from World, waiting for me on the other side of the ephemeral time zone, behind the checkpoint that blocks the entry of Bethlehem, in the West Bank. But here it is: Claire's cell phone chip is Israeli, like many Palestinians and mine. This chip does not know that it is on the ground in Palestinian territory. Claire will wait for me an hour under the first drops of rain of a Mediterranean microtornade.

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Such misunderstandings are more rare nowadays, since Israel and the Palestinian Authority have granted their summer and winter times, without saying so much. In 2013, the Israeli Parliament ended up voting a synchronization of the time change with the European Union (EU), its main trading partner. It takes place on the last Sunday of March, then the last Sunday of October.

This adjustment was made possible by a departure of ultraorthodox religious parties from the government, which until then had kept the winter time on the last Saturday before the religious holidays of Yom Kippur. The fast associated with it ended an hour earlier, at dusk, which might encourage believers to respect it. These holidays are related to the lunar calendar, the gap of Israel with the EU as with the Palestinian territories fluctuated according to the years in the Gregorian (solar) calendar: in 2013, before the vote of the Parliament, the jet lag had lasted twenty-five days.


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