For Jerusalem, winter weather is 'snow' problem - editorial

Despite the difficulties experienced by some, Wednesday night’s heavy snowfall brought something light along with it.

 SACHER PARK in Jerusalem yesterday. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
SACHER PARK in Jerusalem yesterday.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The country has been through a tough couple of years: lockdowns, illness and over 8,000 deaths from corona have been compounded by economic woes for many, and anxiety and uncertainty for us all.

We all need a break, a respite from the day-to-day merry-go-round of worry, as well from the mundane routine of daily life even under the very strange circumstances we’ve grown accustomed to since March 2020.

For the millions of Israelis who are lucky to live more than 700 meters above sea level, that break arrived on Wednesday night and Thursday in the form of Elpis, the Mediterranean storm that dumped centimeters of snow on Jerusalem and other high-altitude regions of the country.

For some people, the wet snow and slush are surely a hardship. Public transportation stopped, many stores were closed, and it was slippery for those who had no choice and needed to venture out.

Schools in Jerusalem were also closed, and students were able to experience that most joyous of school holidays – a snow day! – although it was probably blunted by the new normal of classes being canceled and learning via Zoom as thrust upon the education system by the pandemic.

 A snowy view of the Temple Mount.  (credit: ARIK BENDER/MAARIV) A snowy view of the Temple Mount. (credit: ARIK BENDER/MAARIV)

Despite the difficulties experienced by some, Wednesday night’s heavy snowfall brought something light along with it. The sight of families out in the streets on Thursday building snowmen and sliding in the mush was a rare occurrence.

Families braved the potentially hazardous road conditions to drive to scenic vistas and take selfies on the side of the road. The streets around The Jerusalem Post offices were filled with people walking on the empty rail tracks, playfully throwing snowballs. In nearby Gan Sacher it was a full-fledged winter wonderland, with makeshift sleds drawing lines in the white blanket amid snowmen of all shapes and sizes.

Snow proves to be a great equalizer. Whether it be a haredi resident of Mea She’arim, an Arab from east Jerusalem, a family from Mevaseret or the president of Israel and his wife in Rehavia, the allure of the snow proved to be a common bond on Thursday.

When it comes to some moments, like the wonder and joy of walking, playing and – dare we say it, as it contradicts the usually hardened and cynical Israeli persona – frolicking in the snow, we’re all more alike than we are different.

And if there’s some residual animosity between the disparate makeup of sectors in our society, isn’t a playful snowball fight a better way to handle it than the usual measures we resort to?

Alas, the forecast of rain will undoubtedly trigger a rapid disappearance of the white gift from the skies. By Shabbat, whatever remains around Jerusalem will be slushy and more a nuisance than a vision of beauty.

The challenge we’ll face then is to figure out how we can let into our lives some of that lightheartedness and childlike sense of discovery once the snow has melted.