|Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem|
Waiting for winter
By GIL SHEFLER
From Web surfers to radio programs, the country is looking to the skies for rain.
It’s a national obsession that repeats itself every year. As the long summer
nears its expected end, Israelis become increasingly anxious over when the
Middle-Eastern heat will abate and blessed winter rains return. Last month, the
season’s first downpour arrived on time, leaving a few millimeters of
precipitation and some puddles behind. But since then not a drop has fallen, and
temperatures have soared much past the norm for the season.
an autumn month, not a wintry one, and it still has hot days, but this November
has been particularly scorching,” Rinat Rahmim, a forecaster for the Israel
Meteorological Service, said on Wednesday.
“Last week we had all-time
record highs. For instance, it was 36.6º Celsius in Beit Dagan.”
in Israel are short but usually relatively stormy. It may come as a surprise to
some that Jerusalem’s annual precipitation is 554 mm., only 29 mm. less than
London, which averages 583 mm. per year. But in Israel all rain falls within a
six-month period. So far, very little rain has fallen and many locals long for
balmier, wetter days.
On Galgalatz, Army Radio’s sister station,
producers dedicated an entire two-hour show to songs featuring the word rain in
them last week.
Others have expressed their longing for rain on the
Internet. Over 92,000 people are members of a Facebook page in Hebrew titled
“Smell of Rain.” The page is flooded with comments and poems in praise of
downpours in all its forms.
“The only thing missing in our country is a
real European winter,” one member wrote on Wednesday.
This year’s crops
have already been hurt by the unusual conditions of the past few weeks. Bananas
and persimmons have ripened early, causing serious problems for
“They came early this season because of the weather, and prices
have plummeted,” Ilan Eshel, head of the Israel Fruit and Vegetable Council,
said on Wednesday.
“Growers are trying to sell desperately. If the
drought continues into late December, we’ll have irreparable damage to the
Cattle ranchers are also suffering. Brush fires
have turned large swaths of pasture on the Golan Heights into ashen
Even travel to and from Israel has been affected by the
weather. A thick fog descended on the littoral part of the country on Tuesday,
closing Ben-Gurion Airport and cutting Israel off from the world for several
“We’re currently in a synoptic phase where if it doesn’t rain, fog
appears,” Rahmim explained.
Is there an end in sight to summer’s reign?
“No change is expected in the coming week,” Rahmim said. “Maybe a few scattered
showers in the North on Monday and Tuesday. We gave an annual forecast earlier
this year, and we predict below average precipitation, but it’s still too early
to say for sure. It’s still a prediction.”
Still, some good things may
come out of the dry spell. As The Media Line’s Arieh O’Sullivan reported last
week, rabbis, imams and priests joined forces in Jerusalem to pray for the onset
of rain. If the quest for peace in the Middle East won’t bring people together,
maybe the drought will.