Life isn't all politics. Some things are in the hands of Nature, the Almighty, or however you want to call it.Temperatures seldom get down to freezing in the winter. It reached a record high of 100° F in May, 2015. Average highs are 30° C (86° F) in July and August.
Insofar as there is nothing more boring than someone else's weather, feel free to stop at this point. With no hard feelings.
That being said, Jerusalem's weather, along with a few other things about this city, deserves comment.
The climate may not be ideal, but it's pretty close to that.
Moderation is the word for the city's weather, if not for its spirituality or its politics.
It's one of the better watered places of the Middle East. Average rainfall is 537mm (21 inches in American) per year. That's pretty close to London's 601mm. However, Jerusalemites don't carry umbrellas all year long. Between April and November, any drops create headlines.
On the few days that the heat reaches 90° F, the humidity is likely to be close to 20%. It'll be tolerable in the shade, and pleasant for us old folks to come out and walk before 8 AM or after 5 PM.
Jerusalem is not in the desert, but on the border of the desert.
We see it clearly from our balcony on the eastern edge of the city. Once the rains begin sometime in November or December, the brown field between us and Isaweea to the east turns green, and the color continues eastward for a kilometer or two. Further on, and much lower than us on the 10 mile route from our 810 meters above sea level to the Jordan Valley 400 meters below sea level, we see the hill tops of the Judean desert that remain brown all year long. If we drive down the road before the rains have stopped and the sun takes over, we may see a temporary film of wild flowers on the sand. .
Last weekend the media concentrated on forecasts for Washington, New York, and Jerusalem. There was little mention of the gore that normally occupies Israeli reporters and commentators.
A front was coming from Russia, with cold and lots of moisture. It was certain that there'd be snow for the Mt Hermon ski center in the Golan, most likely as well in the northern mountains and the city of Sefad, and maybe the higher elevations of the central mountains.
Jerusalem was at the center of those forecasts, with comments that it could be serious, but most likely not like the blizzard of 2013. That went down in history, with more than a half meter of snow on parts of the city, and cold weather that kept it here for several days.
Normally Jerusalem gets a bit of snow every few winters.
More than a dusting taxes the infrastructures of the municipality and the citizens.
My standard of comparison comes from 20 years in Madison, Wisconsin. There it regularly goes below -20°, huge trucks plow and collect the snow, then drive onto the thick ice of a lake to dump it in huge piles that disappear in the Spring.
Here the city rents a motley collection of large trucks from building contractors, which splash snow to the side with their wide tires, and--if required--front-end loaders to remove snow from major streets. One doesn't see snow shovels. Residents use brooms, garden rakes, small dust pans, or their hands to clear front steps and their cars, and to make a path for their cars to the center of the road.
On those rare occasions when the snow is serious, the city is cut off from the rest of the country. In 2013, drivers got stuck and clogged roads going down to Tel Aviv and the rest of the country. It took a couple of days to tow enough of them away for the police to remove their blockades from the Jerusalem and the down-hill portions of the road.
Expectations of two inches will produce a state of emergency, with a closure of schools and many lines of public transportation, orders to avoid driving on main roads, and announcements from social service agencies how the old and infirm can call for home delivery of meals, medicine, rides to a heated center or the hospital.
Recent predictions came true only in part. There was snow on Mt Hermon, but not more than flurries in Jerusalem. The police announced the closing of one main road to the coast, but an hour later opened it when it appeared that the snow fall was not lasting. We did get a fair amount of rain, unofficially recorded as 8 cm on our balcony.
Cold there was, enough to require an escalation in clothing, but nothing greater than required in a normal October or November in Madison, and nowhere near Madison in January.
Whenever there is a bit of weather that qualifies for the labels extreme, even if it is a moderate version of extreme as this week, we get back to politics. The bridge is called global warming, human responsibility, and what to do about it.
Enough. Currently us Jerusalem old folks are concentrating on keeping warm, watching out for ice as we walk the neighborhood, and checking behind with an appropriate concern for people with evil intentions.
If anyone wants to comments on this, you're welcome.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)firstname.lastname@example.org
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem