Jerusalem's winter wonderland

It may not have snowed this year, but the cold weather will still be on offer for the next month at Kikar Safra’s ice-skating rink.

Ice skating 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Ice skating 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
When one thinks of Israel, ice and snow do not usually come to mind.
However, for one month Jerusalem is home to both. Until April 14, Kikar Safra features an ice-skating rink.
The 500-sq.m. rink fits perfectly with the chilly weather Jerusalemites experienced last week, since one’s breath is visible inside the Kikar Safra awning. The small snow piles on the rink’s perimeter pathway are enough to make visitors from North America and Europe forget that they’re away from home.
For NIS 30, anyone above age six can channel an inner Brian Boitano or Nancy Kerrigan for half an hour to the tunes of dance and pop music. The rink, operated by the municipality’s event management firm, Ariel Municipal Company Ltd., is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturdays from one hour post-Shabbat to midnight. The operating hours will not change during Purim.
In honor of Purim, Kikar Safra will host Polar Fest on Monday, complete with polar bears, igloos, Eskimos and activities for children such as ice-fishing and snowman-building. Artificial snowflakes will fall over Kikar Safra. Polar Fest attendance is free, but the fee for ice skating will remain in effect.
The rink opened on Thursday with a ceremony attended by Mayor Nir Barkat and former Miss Israel Sivan Klein. The event included performances by professional skaters such as fivetime Israeli youth figure-skating champion Dana Feinberg. Ironically, the opening ceremony was held on a day when meteorologists predicted that snow would fall in Jerusalem, but the winter wonderland was a wash-out.
However, the rink staff was not disappointed by the lack of snow.
“When it snows, people stay home; but because it was raining, more people came, so we were happy,” said Yifat Hazan, an Ariel staff member working at the rink.
For those who are not comfortable going on the ice, there are activities for non-skaters as well. The rink’s coffee shop offers drinks, pastries, sandwiches and ice cream, while spectators can watch their relatives and friends from a special seating section. Israeli Ice Hockey Federation players practice on the rink before and after hours and will hold tournaments open to the public.
Skaters and spectators can also catch “only in Israel” moments on the ice. The diversity within Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, manifests itself on the rink. Young and old; Orthodox and secular; Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Ethiopian; Jew and Arab – all manage to share a relatively small space.
Jerusalemite Rachel Steiner accompanied her grandchildren, eight-year-old Ruchama and sixyear- old Yehoshua, for a Sunday family skating session. Steiner, who skates in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center when she visits the US, said she enjoyed the experience and hopes to take her other grandchildren skating in Kikar Safra.
Meanwhile, Andres Cohn, a 21-year-old from Montevideo, Uruguay, who is spending a month in Israel, went ice-skating for the first time in Jerusalem on Sunday. “In Montevideo, we have one skating rink and it’s only open in the summer months,” said Cohn, who added he had fun in Kikar Safra and intends to go skating again before he returns home.