Jerusalem Affairs: Ploughing through Winograd

Which of this week's storms had more of an effect on the public?

Jerusalem snow 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jerusalem snow 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It was a major Jerusalem news event, one that - after a 16-month investigation - the public had been waiting for with bated breath. One with the potential to topple the government. But Wednesday evening's much-anticipated release of the Second Lebanon War report by a government-sponsored committee of inquiry was virtually upstaged for much of the day by the rare snowstorm which blanketed Jerusalem in the pre-dawn hours. As most city residents huddled indoors next to their heaters and TV sets, precipitation outside was creating disturbances in the broadcasts. This led many concerned YES customers - fearing they might miss the Winograd Committee's press conference and subsequent debates - to rush to their roofs armed with bottles of warm water to melt the snow off the satellite dishes. The excitement of the wintry wonderland for a typically sun-drenched country was such that for much of the day, it was the weather that was making the headlines - temporarily eclipsing other news, even that connected with Winograd. Radio reports alternated between the weather and the impending publication of the war report, with the former upstaging the latter as the day progressed, and the forecast indicated a second storm on the way. Jerusalem, which sees flurries not more than once or twice a winter, gets a heavy snowfall only about once every seven years. With schools and most businesses closed, kids hit the streets, and snowball fights and the building of snowmen were the talk of the city and the country. Envious Tel Aviv area residents, who rarely frequent the capital, made pilgrimages to Sacher Park for a taste of the white delight. As temperatures rose in the afternoon, the snow turned into slush, causing streets - most of which were relatively deserted - to flood. The plastic-bag-coated black hats of some haredim braving the freezing gusts to go about their business contrasted with the coat of white over the Old City. THE JERUSALEM Municipality urged residents not to use their cars, and most paid heed, with only the adventuresome and essential workers, including police and rescue officials, venturing out, sending the price of a city cab skyrocketing fivefold. Most businesses were closed throughout Wednesday and Thursday, as was the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and major tourism sites, underscoring the capital's lack of skill in dealing with snow that sticks. The snowstorm extended across the Middle East, hitting the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as well. Ironically, this coincides with New York City's experiencing its first January without snow in 75 years. The storm of 2008, which had been accurately forecast by increasingly enthusiastic meteorologists days in advance, has been dubbed the "Winograd." It remains to be seen which of the storms will have had a more profound effect on the public.