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Photo by: Gideon Sharon
Jerusalem of white: Snow falls in capital
By MELANIE LIDMAN
01/10/2013
Biggest snowstorm since 1992 pounds capital, paralyzing transportation and bringing more than 20 cm of precipitation.
 
Thursday’s “storm of the decade” provided the requisite shots for the rare winter storm in Jerusalem: haredim praying at the Western Wall, snow clinging to their black hats.

The Dome of the Rock, the golden dome bathed in a light dusting of white.

President Shimon Peres built a snowman, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was pummeled from the right and the left – with snowballs.

But no one could have prepared Jerusalemites for the sheer amount of snow that fell early on Thursday morning.

At the peak of the snow, children trampled through more than 20 centimeters of fresh white powder, smashing snowballs into unsuspecting parents and trying to turn every kind of plastic bag into a sled. In Sacher Park, one optimistic winter aficionado even cross-country skied through the fresh snow.

For all the excitement and anticipation surrounding the biggest snowfall in two decades, the storm wreaked havoc on the roads. All exits to Jerusalem – Highway 1 and Highway 443 toward Tel Aviv as well as Highway 60 to Gush Etzion – were closed to traffic for the entire morning.

From 7 a.m. until midmorning, the only way into or out of the city was a once-anhour train to Tel Aviv.

Bus service within the city was canceled and even the light rail was unable to function due to a technical problem.

The light rail began operating around noon, and buses began running on major routes only. Public transportation was free in the capital until midnight per order of the Transportation Ministry, to encourage cars to stay off the road.

City Councilor Elisha Peleg, who holds the Emergency Services portfolio in the municipality, also warned drivers to stay at home, as many cars got stuck on the capital’s hilly and icy streets.

“The downtown area is bathed in white,” Peleg told Army Radio. He added that this was the biggest snowfall in Jerusalem since 1992.

“The elders of Jerusalem don’t remember such a snowstorm in years,” Peleg said.

The city was trying to deal with more than 700 trees that fell as a result of snow on the branches, Peleg told The Jerusalem Post. The heavy snow also toppled electricity wires, leaving some neighborhoods, such as Malha, without power for an hour or two. Peleg said there were no major incidents or injuries during Thursday’s storm.

The municipality warned that plunging temperatures overnight could create dangerous icy conditions.

In the Old City, teenagers in every quarter pelted unsuspecting tourists with snowballs. Masses of visitors snapping photos of snow clinging to ancient stone quickly turned the stuff to an icy slush.

Sacher Park, the traditional snow destination for out-oftowners and Jerusalemites alike, was packed from 7 a.m. until early evening, when the snow had been trampled into mud.



But no one could have prepared Jerusalemites for the sheer amount of snow that fell in the capital early Thursday morning. At the height of the snow, children trampled through more than 20 centimeters of fresh white powder, smashing snowballs into unsuspecting parents and trying to turn every kind of plastic bag into a sled. In Sacher Park, one optimistic winter aficionado even cross-country skied through the fresh snow.



The Schwartz family from Pardes Hanna snuck into Jerusalem on Highway 443 just moments before the highway closed to traffic. By 9 a.m. they had built a 2- meter tall snowman in the park and were planning their next move to a place with warm drinks.

“We’ve seen snow before, but we’ve never seen this much,” Michal Schwatz, 16, said as she tried to shoo away a dog from the base of their snowman.

In Independence Park, the Hajij family built an enormous igloo – sans roof – that fit their entire six-member family inside.

But Ahmad, a cab driver from east Jerusalem who was on an errand to pick up things for his family, warned that the roads were treacherous.

He said that business was not very good as most people avoided the roads, a sentiment he supported.

“Anyone who is out on the roads is endangering his life and endangering everyone else’s life,” he said. “Today is not a day for work, today is a day for fun and being with your family.”

Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund said that a number of historic trees on Mount Herzl, many 50 years old or more, toppled over in the storm. Emergency services have dealt with dozens of stranded vehicles and removed more than 100 fallen trees and collapsed antennas since the storm began on Sunday.

Peres enjoyed the snow in Jerusalem by building a snowman with his bodyguards.

“Jerusalem has many colors,” he said outside his residence.

“In the morning in the sunshine, she is golden.

In the sunset, she is blueish.

But when she is white, it so rare, so beautiful, so unifying.

Whatever happens in Jerusalem is a blessing. This time is a blessing in white.”

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this story.
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