We’re already well into November. Here in Jerusalem we’ve hardly had a drop of rain, even though it’s officially winter in Israel. How do I know it’s officially winter? First of all, orthodox Jews started praying for rain over a month ago. Second of all, drivers have to have their lights on throughout the day on intercity roads. But the temperatures remain high, and we are still unable to wear our warm winter clothes. The coats and boots remain in the wardrobe, lonely and unwanted for now.
There has been some rain in the north of the country, but that hasn’t lasted very long and hasn’t extended down south. I think the plant life has become quite confused by this climatic oddity. The leaves on the trees are still green, and we are not able to enjoy their changing colours, as the populations of Europe and America do. Even the dratted elm tree in our next-door neighbour’s garden hasn’t yet shed its leaves. This is quite a blessing for me personally as they land directly onto my entrance path and stairs, making them slippery and dangerous, and obliging us to be continually sweeping them up. But even that has its positive side, as we afterwards use those leaves for kindling in the log fire that heats our house, as and when heat is needed. Needless to say, we haven’t had to use it yet. Worst of all, we haven’t yet been able to turn the sprinklers in our garden off.
Frivolity aside, naturally the main sufferer from all this is agriculture. Crops that rely on the winter rainfall have to be watered, and that is doubtless a strain on the pocket of the farmers, as well as constituting a drain on Israel’s limited water resources. To make matters worse, the price of water has recently been raised inordinately in the wake of a law requiring water to be supplied by a recognised company rather than a local authority, as has been the case till now. I have heard rumours that all kinds of dirty deals were involved in this transition, but there’s no way of proving anything.
On the one hand, it cannot be denied that there’s a certain pleasure in waking up every morning to a bright blue sky and sunshine, accompanied by the birds twittering in the trees. This is further supplemented by hearing about the cold, rain and winds afflicting northern Europe and the USA (don’t get me wrong, I’m not glad about Hurricane Sandy in America, just relieved we don’t get hurricanes here in Israel). On the other, waking up to the sound of rain pattering on the roof is also gratifying, in the sense that one knows the dry earth is finally having its thirst assuaged, the air is being cleansed, and it’s time to hunt down our umbrellas before leaving the house.
Walking in downtown Jerusalem one is assailed by the carefree and polyglot atmosphere, with elderly Russian immigrants playing music of various kinds, enlivening the atmosphere, orthodox and secular Jews ambling happily from one shop to another, young people gathered in cafés and eateries, enjoying the balmy weather, Arab women with headscarves wound around their heads, accompanied by their menfolk and children, strolling along as they celebrate the Muslim festival, and everyone, both young and old, benefiting from the relatively unpolluted air now that cars and buses are almost completely banned from the centre of town.
Everyone wants the rain, of course. But equally, everyone is ready to take advantage of the pleasant weather as long as it lasts.
No matter, rain is forecast for the weekend, or next week, or some time soon. Meanwhile, people like me, who hanker for some real winter weather, can take themselves off to London for a few days, to get a taste of the real thing. Watch this space for a full report when I get back in another two weeks!