J'lem meltdown begins after snowstorm

Schools closed, public transport renewed after heavy snow falls overnight in Golan, Safed, W. Bank.

snow in jerusalem 224.88 (photo credit: Daniel Baron)
snow in jerusalem 224.88
(photo credit: Daniel Baron)
A day after a rare winter snowstorm, the sun broke through the clouds in Jerusalem on Thursday, quickly melting the snow that had blanketed the capital and turning city streets into pools of messy slush. The city remained in a half-holiday mode with schools, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, city courts, tourism sites, and some businesses remaining shut for the second straight day. By midday, bus service resumed running and residents, who had remained huddled indoors next to heaters during the peak of the 48-hour storm, began to venture outside. Early in the morning the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway was briefly closed due to the predawn snowfall, the second dousing within 24 hours, while only the city's main streets remained cleared of snow. The Jerusalem Municipality, which had gone on a massive media blitz ahead of the storm about "city preparedness" for the snow, said that its nearly 100 snow plows had focused on clearing all the city's main arteries, but for most side streets and parking lots it was only the warming winter sun that eventually made the roads passable as the day progressed. Although those familiar with colder climates were stunned by how a mere 12 cm. of snow could shut down the capital, for native-born Israelis the unusual snowfall was a special holiday, and the ensuing mess largely expected. For the second straight day hundreds of Israelis from the Tel Aviv area trekked to the capital to view the fast-melting snow, with the central Sacher Park jam-packed with visitors as if it were Independence Day, except that carrot-nosed snowmen and snowball fights replaced the traditional barbeques. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Municipality sent two truckloads of snow to Bnei Brak at the behest of a youth group for the benefit of children unable to make it to the capital, the city said. Jerusalem, which sees a dusting of snow not more than once or twice a winter, gets a heavy snowfall on average only about once every seven years. The January snowstorm extended across the Middle East and hit Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as well as Israel. Ironically, the storm came in a year during which New York City experienced its first January without snow in 75 years.