A normal country, every once in a while

Israel is more than intense argument about political candidates, religion, security, and all the other important issues subject to dispute by Jews who are Talmudic in their style even if they are not religious.


Occasionally, it is like other countries, and fascinated with the weather.


Over the most recent five days, the unofficial rain gauge on our balcony measured 33 cm (13 inches) of rain. This morning (Thursday) it was clogged with about 15 cm (6 inches) snow. The view from the same balcony where occasionally we can see the buildings of Amman, about 60 km (35 miles) away on the next mountain ridge, was limited to a snow covered tree about 3 meters distant.
I found my boots at the back of a closet, put them on for perhaps the third time in 15 years, and went outside to find lots of neighbors also with cameras to record their images of nature''s spectacle. This is my second such adventure in two years, but I''ll avoid comment about global warming.


The city, and much of the country is closed. No political commentary on early morning radio. Only lists of places where there is no school, roads closed, and no public transportation. In order to keep private cars off the roads, Jerusalem declared free rides on buses and light rail. Early this morning, however, the buses were still in their parking lots. The light rail worked until about 7 AM, then it fell victim to a problem that was hoped to be fixed before long. Roads to the capital were closed. The crowds wanting to bring their kids to see the snow in the mountains were urged to wait for the train, assuming that it continues to operate, and that passengers can move from the terminal in a non-photogenic part of Jerusalem other than by foot.


Earlier in the week the stories were about overflowed stream beds that are dry most of the year, residents having to be rescued by rubber boats or helicopters.


This is certain to be a short vacation from what usually bothers us. Already at 7:45 Israel radio left the weather and returned to the election. We''re now in the season of hour-long broadcasts on radio and television with clips provided by each of the 34 political parties fielding candidates for the Knesset. Some are interesting, and even funny. My favorite is that of Power to Israel, the most right wing of the parties, close to the boundaries of racism with several of its leading candidates loyal to the memory of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was banned from politics due to anti-Arab outbursts. The clip done by this party begins with its two major candidates making their appeal in Arabic.


Other party clips show their leaders in full drama. We see Bibi time and again giving rousing speeches with standing applause before the US Congress. A competing clip shows Yair Lapid mimicking Bibi''s use of a cartoon portraying what must be done about Iran''s nuclear program. We see the leaders of Kadima and Meretz in pictures from their childhood, with praise of their parents and marvel of what they have become. Labor''s Shelly Yehimovich includes a testimony by her mother, as well as Shelly talking about her own cooking and children.
The Ha''aretz cartoon shows the ancient rabbi of SHAS, and the two leading candidates watching Shelly in the kitchen and praising her as an ideal woman.
Tsipi Livni makes a point that this time she is in politics to stay, suggesting that her advisers are worried that too many voters accept the charges that she will go home again if she doesn''t get to be Prime Minister or at least Foreign Minister. SHAS and Torah Judaism emphasize their concern for the poor and aged of Israel. One of SHAS''s clips has brought forth charges of racism due to portraying a caricatured Russian of doubtful Jewish background trying to marry a man with obvious Jewish features. One of the minor parties entertains us by advocating political freedom along with access to marijuana, another emphasizes its fervent opposition to pornography as a national menace, and a party calling itself Pirates seems to be urging the free downloading of songs and films from the Internet despite international copyright protections. An Arab-Jewish party is trying to win votes by forswearing nationalism and emphasizing benefits for the poor of both communities. Two new Jewish religious parties are making messianic appeals that only they hold the keys to whatever is eternal. The maturation of recent immigrants is apparent in the lack of clips in Russian. I''ve noticed two party clips that are in Arabic only, without Hebrew subtitles.


Each of the established parties gets time in proportion to its seats in the Knesset, with new parties given much smaller allocations. This leads the bigger parties to repeat the same clips time and again, which sends even this political maven to something else.
Leaders of the three centrist parties are trying to differentiate themselves from another with some nastiness about personalities. Likud our Home would like to stifle the drift of its voters to Jewish Home. Each party''s stars are accusing their rivals of naivete, unreliability, inexperience, and in some cases likely to bring the country to disaster via military adventures or a failure to stay within the good graces of the United States and Western Europe. The chair of the Election Commission, a Justice of the Supreme Court, has ruled some of the clips out of bounds.


The forecast for Thursday afternoon foreward through next week is more regular weather and lots of politics.