Hats off to the weather forecasters! Last week they said that a perfect storm was coming, and this week it did. Sunday was still fairly reasonable, chilly but not too bad. One could still get out and about here in the Jerusalem area with relative ease, and function in the normal fashion (an expedition to the supermarket, my weekly stint of volunteering at the Israel Museum, Yigal’s customary tennis game); the electricity worked, the house was warm, the car started on cue, and all was well.
On Sunday night the storm began. There was no electricity anywhere in the neighbourhood for several hours — our digital clock always tells us this has happened even if we were asleep at the time. But even if it hadn’t, the noise of the wind howling outside the windows and the thunder of the rain battering on the roof made sure we were aware of what was going on outside. The noise was enough to wake the dead, let alone a light sleeper like myself.
The next morning the sight outside our windows was truly terrifying, with trees bowed in the gale-force wind, and dark clouds low in the sky. Being a timid soul, I decided that I would not venture outside my front door that day, or any other day until the storm was past. That meant that I would be staying indoors for several days (except when I crept out in boots, coat, hat, and gloves first thing in the morning to take the paper from its perch just outside our entrance, and it was a good thing it had been rolled up and placed in a plastic bag, otherwise it would have been drenched). After all, it’s unthinkable for anyone brought up in England not to be able to read the morning paper as one partakes of breakfast. Yes, even in this day and age.
The news in all the media was of storm damage all over Israel. Trees were blown down, and some fell on cars and damaged them. One poor soul was in the way of a falling branch and had to be taken to hospital. Roads turned into rivers, and then into lakes. Cars were unable to proceed, and some were even washed away and seriously damaged. The neighbourhood just outside Jerusalem where I live, as well as Jerusalem itself, of course, is built on what is affectionately called the mountains of Jerusalem, and so most of the rainwater flowed on downhill to the valley below.
Our log-fired heater kept us warm and cosy all the time. There’s nothing to beat curling up with a book by a nice warm fire while the elements are raging outside.
All over Israel reports poured in of disastrous floods, of rivers overflowing their banks, of homes ruined, electricity failures, and apartments that had to be abandoned. Israel needs the water, it’s true, but it seems to be woefully unprepared to cope with it when it comes down in anything beyond the usual small quantity of winter rain. The one bright spot was the amount of water flowing into Lake Tiberias in Galilee, which is the catchment area for all the rivers and rainfall in the north of the country and Israel’s main source of fresh water (which it shares with Jordan). In the last few years the winter rains have not been enough to bring the level up to the required level, and the daily or weekly reports of its level have been a source of concern for every Israeli, and especially for the authorities. But this year it looks as if it will be full by the end of the winter, and particularly once the snow that has fallen in the higher areas has melted.
After a couple of days of torrential rain all over the country, the forecasters announced that the temperatures were going to drop drastically, and that there would be snow in all the high areas, Jerusalem included. Schools were told to send pupils home at midday, but the promised snow didn’t arrive that day (Tuesday). Then at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning it started to snow really hard, reminding me of the winter I spent in Lincoln, Nebraska, when I decided I never wanted to see another snowflake in my life. For several hours the snow continued to come down thick and fast, settling on the ground in a thick white layer. The world was white and much quieter than usual. And there was no morning paper, of course. Schools were closed all day on Thursday, and adults and children went out into the winter wonderland to have fun, participate in snowball fights, and build snowmen. Even the 89-year-old President was shown on TV helping to build a snowman (well, putting a woolly hat on the snowmen his security guards had made).
Our garden turned into a white winter palace, as the photo shows, and I only hope the snow hasn’t done too much damage to the plants. In any case, now the forecasters say the storm has passed and tomorrow the weather will start to get milder. Perhaps it’s just as well. A day or two of what’s known as a snow holiday, when roads are impassable and life stops its usual flow is fine, but no, I wouldn’t want it to go on for much longer.