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Snowfall in a park in Jerusalem.(Photo by: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Snow day?
Children, some of whom have never seen the white stuff, are filled with joy as they run outside to play, make snowballs and find makeshift slides.
‘God, not man, decides whom these riches bestow
The rich of spirit know the value of silvery sheets
of snow’
– Laura Greene

If you live in Jerusalem or other high-altitude areas of the country, just a look outside in the morning will reveal whether the weather forecasters were correct in their prediction of snow.

The last time Jerusalemites experienced a major snow storm was four years ago – and it shut down the city. The prospects of snow evoke mixed emotions.

On the one hand, it’s such a relatively rare event in this part of the world that it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the novelty and excitement of a temporary winter wonderland.

Children, some of whom have never seen the white stuff, are filled with joy as they run outside to play, make snowballs and find makeshift slides.

Aesthetically speaking, there probably isn’t a more majestic site than seeing the Western Wall plaza covered in white or a blanket of fresh snow covering Mount Scopus.

However, along with that beauty come hardships. Snow can create a major inconvenience that can affect the lives of all involved. Four years ago, motorists were force to strand their cars on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway and other central Jerusalem arteries, wreaking havoc for rescue personnel and municipal plows to do their job.

Food and medicine supplies can be interrupted, offices and schools closed and the city basically shuts down. Even more dangerous is how the cold, wet weather can affect the elderly, to say nothing about the suffering of the homeless population and the stray animals who live on the streets and sometimes succumb to the elements.

That’s the two-sided face of harmless and harsh snow, which Israelis generally never have to consider. But with the multi-day buildup forecasting a real winter storm, the focus in the country – whether with trepidation or with anticipation – has momentarily turned away from politics and security toward gloves and winter hats.

Despite the hassles and disruption caused by a snow storm, it’s beneficial to prepare in advance and then look at snow as an opportunity to bring us to a different place in our minds and our lives.

Waking up to a scene of peaceful, unblemished white is a breathtaking image; an unblemished, peaceful image of perfection. It’s like nature’s way of taking our minds off our daily routine and drudgery and forcing us to stop and appreciate the moment – the winter version of stopping to smell the roses.

As caught up as we are in careers, families, errands and the constant acts of doing, a fresh blanket of snow allows us – for a moment – to stop doing and just be. Hopefully, we are not too jaded to still be filled with wonder and gratitude for the bounty that, in a day or two, will disappear.

And just maybe, for those who were raised in a snowy environment, it will conjure up those memories of youth – the radio announcement that school was canceled, the rush outside with a sled or toboggan, the simple pleasure of building a snowman, the hours of getting soaked with fun and then returning to a warm home and a cup of hot chocolate.

That idyllic scene may be an embellishment on a reality that never was, but if there is snow outside this morning, it provides an opportunity to create a new reality. Don’t be too stuffy or stodgy to enjoy the simple pleasures of making a snowball, sticking your tongue out to catch a flake, or trudging in the white power and leaving a distinct footprint.

Dress warmly, walk carefully, but don’t miss out on taking advantage of the rare occurrence of snow in Israel, without having to travel hours to the Golan.

And if the expected snow has turned to rain, or melted when it hit the ground and you wake up to gray skies and bare streets and sidewalks?

Not to despair or rejoice, we still have a couple more months of winter to prepare for the next snow storm.
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