The clocks will jump ahead an hour on Aug. 2 when Israel belatedly goes onto summer daylight-saving time in an energy conversation move. But in the ancient Mea Sherim quarter of Hasidic Jews, time -- as usual -- will stand still.
Aghast at the government's decision to keep pace with the rest of the world, the ultraorthodox Neturei Karta sect announced today that it will defy the time change and function an hour out of step with the rest of Israel.
"We intend to cause pandemonium. people will be so confused they won't know what time it is," said Rabbi Moshe Hiursch, the self-styled "foreign minister" of Neturei Karta and unofficial mayor of the colorful Mea Shearim quarter.
For more than 100 years, the 5,000 residents of Mea Shearim have clung to the Hasidic life style of the 19th century Eastern European shtetl, resisting change with a passion equaled only by their religious fervor.
When the city built a costly highway near another Orthodox community, Neturei Karta "commandos," clad in long black frocks and wide-brimmed hats, showered passing cars with stones until the government agreed to build another costly road to divert the traffic. When the government tried to build a soccer stadium in the area, the elders threatened to place a voodoo-like hex on Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, and the stadium site was moved.
Now, Hirsch said today, the commandos will return to the streets intimidating secular storeowners who desecrate the Sabbath by opening shops on Saturday night, according to the official time.
Moveover, Orthodox Jewish violators who set their clocks and watches to daylight-saving time will be hauled before Mea Shearim ecclesiastical courts and punished by community pressure, including "shunning" by other Orthodox Jews.
"The word of the court is very potent. Nobody can defy the court. There are ways we can make people repent if they follow the Zionist decree and change their clocks," Hirseh said.
Neturei Karta, which claims 60,000 followers throughout Israel but which probably is much smaller, abhors Zionism and refuses to recognize the Jewish state because the Messiah has not yet arrived.
Many of the sect's adherents refuse to pay Israel income taxes or cooperate with the government in any way, and many openly support Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat because they believe the Palestinians have as much right to the land of Israel as the Jews do -- until the Messiah returns.
The government, yielding to a demand by its National Religious Party coalition partners, has balked at imposing summmer daylight-saving time because religious Jews' complained it would interfere with morning prayers and lead to widespread desecration of the Sabbath. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren warned that movie theaters would not give up two shows on Saturday night, meaning that the first show would necessarily begin before the Sabbath ended at sundown. He also said that buses and kiosks would begin operating while the sun was out.
But Israel's Supreme Court, acting on a lawsuit brought by a Tel Aviv energy expert last month ordered Interior Minister Yosef Burg to implement a 1940 British law requiring daylight-saving time. Officials estimated that Israel could save up to 12,500 tons of fuel, or about $1 million a year.
Today, notices went up throughout Mea Shearim and the Tel Aviv Orthodox community of Bnei Brk, with 20,000 residents, declaring that the seven-member Neturei Karta council had appointed squads of "enforcers" to comb Orthodox neighbrhoods for persons who follow daylight saving time. The notices warned that "a great danger is descending upon the holy Sabbath."
Hirsch said hundreds of "enforcers" will also fan out over secular neighborhoods and harass violators.
"If the enforcers see a theater selling tickets or a pizza parlor selling pizza, they will shout the customers away until the Sabbath is over according to our clocks," Hirsch said. "This will be effective until the Zionist police come, which will expose the government's vanity to the entire world."
At the same time, workers living in Orthodox areas will appear at their jobs and keep appointments according to "Orthodox time," further confusing the secular community.
"Rememer the Tower of Babel," Hirsch said. He was referring to the biblical story of infidels who attempted to build a spiral reaching the heavens.
"They all spoke one language when they began building the foundation. But as they progressed, they began speaking different languages, and you know what happened," Hirsch said.