Incredible photos of Jerusalem and Israel began circulating the Internet yesterday. Many of them featured historic religious sites, such as the Dome of the Rock and the Cave of the Machpela in Hebron bedecked with snow. Videos captured the wonderment of children experiencing snow for the first time. A freshness seemed to envelop the landscape.
We ourselves posted a stunning photo on our Facebook page of Tikva Gelb, daughter of Heather Streltzer Gelb (whose mother is formerly of Denver) riding her horse bareback in the hills surrounding Jerusalem. And plenty of whimsical pictures have been passed around, like the one included in our collage below of a snowboarder in the city of Jerusalem.
Clockwise, upper left: Snowboarding in Sacher Park, Jerusalem; a man waves from the knee-deep water that covers Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway; snowy light rail on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road; the flooding of the Ayalon River forced trains to come to a standstill. (All images © Flash90)
But what received less coverage were the rain storms and floods that ravaged the country in the two days prior to the unexpected snow fall.
Throughout fall and winter, Jewish communities worldwide pray for Israel to have a rainy season. It seems that prayers were answered this past week, but perhaps too generously. Rivers overflowed, roads were closed, streets were swamped and unpassable, restaurants and homes flooded. The Israeli Navy was even called into Hadera on January 8 to rescue stranded residents.
At least four people have died due as a result of the unusually inclement weather, among them two Palestinians in the West Bank, parts of which suffered from landslides and serious flooding after the heavy rains.
Of course the upshot is that the Sea of Galilee is reporting a 67 centimeter rise, which is a much-needed increase in the country’s water supply following several years of levels being at an all-time low.
So relish the peaceful images of the holy city in a shroud of white, but spare a moment - and a prayer - for the many people and businesses adversely affected by what, to us from far away, simply looks beautiful.
For those of you interested in how it all went down, minute by minute, you can’t do better than these live blogs from Times of Israel and Ha’aretz.