First Person: Under the weather

In the 30 years I have lived in Jerusalem, this is the fourth major snowfall I can remember. Each time is both as magical – and as predictable – as the one before.

December 15, 2013 02:27
3 minute read.
JERUSALEMITES WALK by abandoned cars in the Nahlaot neighborhood, Dec. 13, 2013

Snowy abandoned cars in Jerusalem 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Having grown up in Halifax, Canada, snow is not a new experience for me. But a snowstorm in Jerusalem is not a snowstorm in Halifax. In the 30 years I have lived here, this is the fourth major snowfall I can remember. Each time is both as magical – and as predictable – as the one before.

People are sent home from work at the first sign of a snowflake; schools are closed; and as the snow begins to accumulate, inevitably, the city becomes an island, completely detached from its surroundings.

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I was due to fly Saturday; and while I considered all the possible ways of trying to get to Tel Aviv for the night before, none was feasible. I live on a narrow street in Jerusalem, and my car sits behind an electric gate. Even in the best of weather, departing the driveway and making the turn demands a serious degree of skill.

A branch had broken off the tree above the car’s parking spot and ripped off the back windshield wiper. I was lucky; it could have broken the rear window altogether.

There was no electricity in my neighborhood for most of Friday, so I couldn’t open the electric gate.

My travel agent kept telling me to take the train to Tel Aviv, not realizing that getting to the train station was as much of a challenge as getting out of the driveway.

And with an electricity outage, how does one walk away from one’s apartment not knowing which appliances are still turned on and which are not? Being the kind of person who tends to be organized and prepared, I have all the right equipment and clothing for winter – in Canada or in Jerusalem. Of course my boots and my down duffle coat were both packed in preparation for the trip.

And the fridge was pretty much empty.

That’s when you improvise! Powdered vegetable stock becomes soup when you boil up some water on the gas stove. Whoops! We now live in the first world and modern stoves have their own electric spark to light the gas.

Out come the matches.

And the phone calls never stop – from other parts of Israel and from overseas.

Everyone wants to be touched by this phenomenon. But with modern technology, everything requires some kind of electricity. Cordless landline phones stop working; mobiles have to be recharged.

As I watched the battery go down on my cellphone, and as the cold began to take its toll on my body, I decided it was time to go visit friends who live not far away – just far enough away to have electricity.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime to teach my native-born friends about hot rum toddys.

For most of us, the great storm of 2013 was a time for frolic and snapshots and wonderful memories. For those who did not pay attention to the instructions of authorities and were stuck in cars for hours in the cold and then complained of not being rescued fast enough...enough said.

Once again, the vignettes in life are vivid. The man across the street who thought that he could simply get into his car and drive away, forgetting that cars are made of metal and pieces freeze.

The locks refused to open. Citrus trees were full of fruit and covered in snow.

Snowmen (and women) were being created by children wearing plastic bags over their shoes. Radio and television (for those with electricity) filled the hours as though on a war footing.

The adventure has subsided for now.

The work week begins anew and we will all exchange stories of the fun and of travails.

In Halifax, no one talks about a snowstorm.

In Jerusalem, each storm brings new adventures and new challenges. Jerusalem streets will always be narrow and impossible to clear. And there will always be outages.

But it’s always better here.

The writer is longtime resident of Jerusalem.

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