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2013-12-13 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

December 13, 2013  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Jerusalem of Snow

Snowfall in Jerusalem is not as rare as you might think, but 16 inches is a real traffic stopper
JTA news reports


A man walks along the light-rail tracks on Jaffa Road on Dec. 13, after a major snowstorm hit Jerusalem. The storm cut off car and train travel in the Israel capital, left thousands without power and briefly shut down the country’s main airport. 
Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90 A man walks along the light-rail tracks on Jaffa Road on Dec. 13, after a major snowstorm hit Jerusalem. The storm cut off car and train travel in the Israel capital, left thousands without power and briefly shut down the country’s main airport. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90 When snow falls in Jerusalem, like the storm that hit the Israeli capital last week, the world takes heed. But as unusual as it may seem, snowfall in Jerusalem is a semi-regular occurrence. It doesn’t happen every winter, but it happens with some frequency, as a look through the JTA Archive shows.

Going back to the 1920s, JTA has featured reports on snowfall in Jerusalem about two to four times a decade. Just last January, Jerusalem received a dusting of snow, although nowhere near the 16 inches reported over three days last week .

Still, such reports occasionally referred to snow in the holy city as a “rarity.”

As it did last week, snow in Jerusalem often involves some hardships: roads shut down, electricity knocked out and people stranded. Sometimes it has brought catastrophe, as in 1992 when an earlier snowstorm was blamed for causing a landslide that killed at least 23 at an Arab cafe in eastern Jerusalem.


Young people sit at a cafe table set up amid the snow in Jerusalem. 
Photo courtesy of Hadas Parush/Flash 90 Young people sit at a cafe table set up amid the snow in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Hadas Parush/Flash 90 But snow can also bring good things. Occasionally, snow has even cooled conflicts between Jews and Arabs. A 1934 snowfall chilled Arab demonstrations that had been feared as having the potential to stir up anti- Jewish violence. And in 1948, during Israel’s War of Independence, a snowfall brought a lull in fighting to the country.

Two stories from 1950 capture how winter storms in Israel can be a cause for both wonder and tragedy: JTA reported on Yemenite immigrants who saw their first snowfall, and shortly thereafter it noted the four Yemenite Jews who were killed when snow caused the mess hall in their immigration camp to collapse.

The JTA report on the 1934 snowstorm described at length the transformation of the holy city into a winter wonderland:

Jewish urchins and Arab ragamuffins had their first real outdoor occasion since 1927, the date of the last heavy snowfall. Internecine or inter-racial combat raged merrily up and down the streets for hours, and shrewd victories were won or crushing defeats suffered, whichever side had the most snowpiles at its command and sufficient elbowstrength to wield. As usual, some over-enterprising youths got stones mixed up in their white globes, and they will probably face a law court for it….

People commuted from Tel Aviv to see the wonder with their own eyes, suspecting the local Hebrew press of mirthful exaggeration. And many of them took the next bus or train back, because it was too cold, for their experience of temperate climate. Ladies brought out foxes and furs and muffs and bear-hats, and one dainty creation appeared all in white as the snowlady. Local modistes flung their heart and soul into new window decorations, particularly the enterprising newcomers from Hitlerland. Many German Jews, newly arrived here, went about chuckling and briskly rubbing their hands and stamping their feet — this, at least, was a reminder of their former country which they did not mind having accentuated.

The blizzard of 2013 captivated the country since it first hit on Thursday, Dec. 12. Up north, cities got three feet of snow; in Jerusalem the figure was 16 inches. Four people died. Thousands were without power. For the first time in recent memory, buses ran on Shabbat, allowing access to roads that remained closed to civilian vehicles. Some 2,000 people had to be rescued from their vehicles that got stuck on the highways.

With trains also halted due to the snow, the light-rail track became a pedestrian walkway. Native-born Israelis trudged through in inadequate gear, save for haredim, whose European-style coats and hats came in handy.

Ben Gurion Airport was also closed for a brief time.

The snow even had an effect on the Middle East peace process. The storm cut short meetings between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

JTA staff writers Daniel Treiman and Ben Sales contributed to this story.


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