There is something wonderful and terrible about an unexpected change in the weather. Here in Israel, we have a temperate climate, and tourists come from near and far to enjoy warm weather in the winter, and rain free summers, and to relax on the beach. Because during late spring, summer and part of autumn the water is quite warm and comfortable. And in the winter, many Israelis are willing to wait in lines to go skiing on Mt Hermon, and to enjoy other winter activities in the mountains. When we get snow in Jerusalem, it is generally a party, and folks come from Tel Aviv and B’er Sheva to provide their children with the pleasure of throwing a snow ball or sliding down a hill on a piece of cardboard or a plastic garbage bag, if they don’t have a sled.
And we in Jerusalem, look forward to the snow. Since it doesn’t happen all that often, it is cheaper to just close the schools, and limit transportation till the snow is gone. The local citizens complain, of course, and tell one another about how people in Canada or Russia continue about their normal business regardless of snow… but such talk is just for the complainers. We know we have enough problems, without making a big deal about a little snow, and most look at it as a holiday.
But even so, once in a while the weather takes an unexpected turn, and that puts the ‘fear of God’ into believers, and non-believers make do with ‘awe of nature’. It amounts to the same thing, I suppose. For suddenly, the best made plans become irrelevant, and acts of heroism are taken almost for granted, as neighbor helps neighbor, and grown men are seen with tears in their eyes, and the regular order of things are turned upside down.
I remember reading in the psalms, of the rivulets of the Negev turning suddenly into mighty rivers… and this was before the TV arrived… and I had never seen it with my own eyes. But this near miracle is something that happens almost every winter. When there’s a hard rain here in Jerusalem, the water makes its way from the mountains to the Negev desert, and converging with waters coming from other high lands… dry river beds turn suddenly into raging rivers. I have seen it since, many times, on TV. It can catch a jeep, and just throw it around like a toy in the hands of a child, and often people who are unfamiliar with the territory, are swept away, only to be found a few days later, a week later, or a month later… in far away places. It is amazing. And even though it has happened more than once… for some reason, people forget about it… ignore the warning they get from the rangers, and prefer to walk along a dry river bed rather than on the rocky paths of the high hills.
So far, the snow in Jerusalem hasn’t really been that great. It snows for a while, and then there’s some rain that washes most of it away. And then there’s a little more snow. The serious snow lovers, are disappointed. In the north it’s better. They have a half a meter on the ground in the north, and that is a great pleasure. But in our area, we had quite a storm before the snow started decorating our city streets. And there was cold and wind. And for some, that was enough to make lives rather uncomfortable. A great wind came, and tore branches off of trees, but we here in Jerusalem weren’t too bothered by that. We found refuge in our stone houses, and waited for the wind to die down.
But less than a hundred kilometers to the north, where my son Gamliel lives in a little village, that wind raised havoc. Gamliel has been enlarging his family’s home, so there’d be a bit more room for the six children. And while working on the house, the family moved into a modest cabin in the same village. In the early afternoon of last Wednesday, the wind came through, and lifted the roof right off the cabin and deposited it, in pieces, in a nearby valley. His daughter was at home when it happened, and saw it all. Fortunately, no one was hurt.