Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snows of 2013 - Round Two

We don't get many years which are bracketed by snow like this, and even fewer where there is snow in both January and then December, and early in December at that. The snow storms this weekend were the heaviest in Israel in 60 years, much of the country was paralysed by snow or torrential rain and flooding. We were stuck in Jerusalem when we got snowed in when we went to visit a relative there.

Fortunately we had planned on spending the weekend there anyway and when we heard that it might snow we took the reports seriously, stocking up on food and candles, bringing extra warm clothing with us. We were lucky to be in a neighbourhood where there were only brief power outages, some areas were without power for many hours or even days. Below I've posted some photos of our snowbound experience by the Jerusalem Forest from Thursday to Sunday.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thank you

Despite all the hardships, despite all the heartache, קטנתי מכל החסדים, I cannot help but wonder sometimes how it is that our generation is worthy of this incredible loving kindness that is the return of the nation of Israel to our ancestral land after so very many painful centuries of wandering bereft and alone, strangers in strange lands at the mercy of other peoples who so often treated our ragtag refugee nation with the utmost cruelty.

Each year I am awed anew at the zkhut, the great merit, granted to me and my family, to live in a generation in which the Jewish people is once more a sovereign nation in our historic homeland, how many of our ancestors had this dream and how beyond words it is that we were granted the hesed, the loving kindness, to realise it.

It is even beyond that though. When I think of my family who came here 70, 80, 90 years ago, how they suffered in a land that was at the time rough and ready in the extreme, how sometimes all they had to go on was their love of the Land of Israel and the people of Israel, but not even a home to call their own, not knowing where their next meal was coming from, whether they would find work, sick from malaria and other tropical diseases that once plagued those who lived here. 

And here we are, a generation who can hop on a plane and come home to a country that has been built and developed with blood, sweat and tears and so much faith.

Monday, January 14, 2013

And finally, what we've all been waiting for.... Snowy Jerusalem

The prayers of a million Israeli children were answered this winter when the recent rain storms finally turned to snow, coating Israel's higher altitudes in a respectable blanket of white. The City of Gold morphed into the White City.

I can't remember a winter like this in Jerusalem for at least a decade. True, there have been a few dustings of snow, but not this much.

So we did what so many Israelis living in lower parts of the country did - we schlepped our kids up to the Holy City to see the snow. All along the roads leading to Jerusalem, as soon as the highway passed by even the smallest of grass verges at an elevation great enough to receive in the lightest of snow Israelis from warmer areas were parked haphazardly, usually with a gaggle of children in tow and frolicking in the stuff.

The entire journey to Jerusalem and within the city the pavements, parks, just about every empty patch of ground, had attracted groups of locals, young and old, playing in the snow or just enjoying the novelty of catching snowflakes on their tongues. An impressive selection of snowpeople lined the route, most of impressive of which was a neo-classical female nude under construction by a group of college students on a traffic circle near the Hebrew University campus. Venus de Milo rendered in snow.

We chose Mt Scopus for its views over the Old City and towards the desert and were rewarded with views of the continuing blizzard over the pine, cypress and olive groves down towards the ancient stone walls and domes of the heart of Jerusalem. Nothing like it.

Mt Scopus is a seam area between Arab and Jewish areas and on a snow day the area buzzed with pedestrians from both groups, along with a smattering of snow stranded tourists, their buses unable to negotiate the slippery streets, despite Jerusalem's fleet of snow ploughs.
View towards the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea at the edge of Jerusalem's Mt Scopus

We wandered with the other visitors enchanted at the novelty, pausing now and then when someone asked us to photograph a family portrait or a romantic twosome against the backdrop of Jerusalem's most recognisable landmark, prominent even in the swirl of falling snow.

For the most part Arabs, Jews and tourists enjoyed the magic cast by the snow together, the classic view of the city rendered foreign without its trademark sunshine and blue skies. The promenade at the edge of the Hebrew University campus was actually quite crowded despite the bitter cold and trecherous road conditions.

It wasn't all wintry cameraderie though. From time to time though at the edges of the neighbourhood or in more isolated spots along the promenade occasional gangs of Arab youths lobbed giant snow balls at passing Jewish vehicles. Not as dangerous or lethal as rocks, but the intent was clear from the faces of those doing the throwing. This was not in play.

Despite this though they didn't spoil the general atmosphere of good humour and wonder, by and large snow still brings out the better side of people in the Middle East.

Jerusalem light rail makes it way through the snow

Most snowball fun was in jest between Arabs and Jews

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Boundary between snowy Jerusalem and mostly clear Judean Desert

Edge of Jerusalem, view towards August Victoria

British Commonwealth War Cemetery dating back to the First World War

Mt Scopus British Commonwealth War Cemetery

Many proud Jerusalem trees were bowed and broken under the snow

Ramot Forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem