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A long white weekend

 The forecasts proved correct. A major storm coming out of Russia would bring lots of rain, and snow to the northern mountains,and at least a bit of snow to the Judean Mountains. Read that as Jerusalem. French Hill is the highest point within the city at 810 meters (2,500 feet).

 
It was to start late Tuesday, and continue through Saturday morning.
 
So far so good, with the bit of snow in the Judean Mountains putting about half a meter on our balcony.
 
I remained indoors from late Tuesday until mid-morning on Saturday. Earlier in my life I'd have put on the boots first light on Wednesday. This year I enjoyed the warm and dry apartment, watching the rain then the snow pile up outside.
 
A rough guess is that 98 percent of news reports have been about the weather and its effects. That is unusual for a place bordering the world's currently most bloody civil war that sometimes spills over our northern border; major unrest in the most important Arab country just over the southern border, as well as US and European interest in those sputtering talks with the Palestinians.
 
Most of the 2 percent of the news not dealing with the weather has dealt with those other things, including the several hours it took John Kerry to travel the 5 miles from Ramallah to Jerusalem between his most likely unproductive talks with Mahmoud Abbas and Benyamin Netanyahu. He was quoted as saying they were productive. All those believing him are not reflecting the Israeli or Palestinian commentators talking and writing.
 
The 98 percent of the news has dealt with the meteorological details, the suffering, and the activities of various bodies concerned.
 
The storm has gone beyond the capacity of the Electric Company and local authorities responsible for cleaning the streets.
 
Criticism is vicious. Politicians are threatening major committees of inquiry, and the commentators of radio and television are talking as if covered by sackcloth and ashes.
 
So far I haven't heard any talking about the probabilities, and how well any organizations should be prepared for what is described as the worst storm in recorded history. Jerusalem generally gets a dusting of snow every three or four years, and as much as 10 centimeters (4.5 inches) every ten years. There is no justification for the city to invest in snow removal equipment like anything in my former hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. It rents trucks and front-end loaders  from construction companies when the need arises. Usually streets can be cleared well enough by driving trucks along them and having their broad tires splash the snow aside. What comes down usually melts an hour or two after it stops.
 
This time both main roads between the coastal plain and Jerusalem were closed for the better part of two days. Abandoned cars littered the highways and city streets, and hampered crews meant to clean the streets and fix electric outages. 
 
Human interest stories included school groups trapped in buses for hours, being given blankets and hot drinks by concerned people who lived nearby; police calls on elderly people whose children were unable to make contact; people trapped in the capital when the roads closed; they were brought to a convention center where they received hot drinks and soup, and a place to sleep on the floor, neighborhoods of Jerusalem and whole towns without electricity..
 
So far we've heard of one death, apparently a middle age man who fell from a place he should not have been. Compare that to the results of major snows in cities of the US or Europe not used to such things, including Washington D.C., or Hurricane Katrina that crippled New Orleans and produced 1,833 deaths along with enough violence to require the National Guard and US troops to keep order. 
 
The confluence of Sabbath and bad weather assured a role for religion. A senior official in the Jerusalem Rabbinate went public with the suspicion that the eruv around the city had broken, and the faithful were warned against carrying anything on their way to the synagogue. Rather than walk without a  handkerchief or keys, it was expected that many would pray in their homes.
 
On the more liberal side, the Minister of Religious Services (the head of Jewish Home) agreed with the Minister of Transportation (Likud) to relax Sabbath restrictions on public transportation. Trains operated to and from the city, bringing the stranded home without their cars and bringing families to Jerusalem, some to see snow for the first time.
 
Expect a political crisis next week, when restive MKs of the ultra-Orthodox parties are back at work, and some from Jewish Home taking aim at their boss.
 
I've enjoyed meeting with internet friends for a cup of wine or coffee on the balcony overlooking Isaweea and the Judean Desert. As shown below, however, today would not be good.
 
 
Inline image 1 
 
 
 
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