Snowfall unites Jerusalemites of diverse faiths

Jerusalem became a city united by a winter wonderland, even by its most ideologically and politically divided holy site.

Bar mitzva boy poses with snow woman at Kotel 370 (photo credit: Courtesy of Inbal Cohen)
Bar mitzva boy poses with snow woman at Kotel 370
(photo credit: Courtesy of Inbal Cohen)
Aglow in an incandescent white sheen, the Old City became perhaps the most unlikely and historic playground in the world on Thursday, uniting Arab and Jewish children and adults of all streams with a shared sense of awe and adventure.
“I love the snow!” exclaimed 11-year-old Nayri Bawb, as she playfully threw a snowball at her giggling seven-year-old sister Pearla, outfitted in pink Hello Kitty earmuffs and a makeshift snowsuit, just outside of Jaffa Gate.
“This doesn’t happen every year and it’s strange and fun!” added Nayri.
A few feet away, two young ultra-Orthodox boys joined the Palestinian girls in making snowballs, laughing together as their respective parents smiled at each other while the children delighted in the first snowfall of the year.
Jerusalem became a city united by a winter wonderland Thursday, even by its most ideologically and politically divided holy site.
Indeed, less than 150 meters from the Kotel, ultra-Orthodox, Arab and secular men women and children took turns to pose next to a “snow woman” built by members of Women of the Wall, replete with a tallit, pink scarf and green skirt in a neutral section near the Western Wall.
“When we saw the snow we decided to come to the Kotel and build a snow woman just as an act of showing we care about the Wall – and even the haredim came to pose with her,” said WoW member Hallel Fischer.
Although the figure was adorned with her grandfather’s tallit, Fischer said the display was not meant as a political statement so much as a way to celebrate the beauty of the Kotel with visitors of all backgrounds.
“We didn’t build it as a provocation,” she said. “In this case it was a fun game and nobody thought of us as a threat, just as being fun and inviting.”
Noting that only one person objected to the use of the tallit, WoW member Inbal Cohen, who helped construct it, said numerous religious people were actually competing to pose for pictures next to it.
“We told all of them that it was a woman, but I think because the atmosphere was not intrinsically political, no one thought of the snow woman wearing a talis as a threat,” said Cohen. “I don’t think this will change the world, but it’s a small step.”
Asked why she thought the potentially controversial and offensive structure engendered such harmony and good will in an otherwise contentious religious environment, Cohen said she attributed the success to “humor.”
“Humor is a great tool for communication, and what we had was a beautiful human encounter,” she said.
“Everyone was laughing and thought it was fun.”
Ofek Birnholtz, who came from Tel Aviv by bus to accompany the women before the highway was shut down, said he was most struck by how “normal” the interaction felt.
“Everyone knew it was a woman, it was obvious,” he said. “Still, from bar mitzva boys, Palestinians to haredim – everyone was laughing and what was so extraordinary was how natural it felt.”
Rachel Danziger, visiting her Israeli boyfriend for two months from Melbourne, Australia, said she was captivated by the unusual scene.
“It’s majestic, like a little fairy tale seeing all the snow on this old city,” she said, adding that she was especially struck by how the snow brought people together in a city known for its pronounced divide.
“It’s so nice to see people bonding,” she said, her eyes conveying pleasant surprise.
Meanwhile, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Thursday night that there were no disturbances reported at the Kotel Thursday.
“Not one single incident,” he said.