Snow Patrol

by Brian on January 28, 2008

in A Parent in Israel,Only in Israel

When I woke up on the second morning of the biggest snowstorm Jerusalem’s seen for 20 years this week, nine-year-old Aviv was sitting on the couch in his pajamas watching cartoons on the TV. Outside in the courtyard of our apartment complex I could hear the happy squeals of children throwing snowballs, building snowmen and generally frolicking in the white blanket that had temporarily obliterated the comforting Jerusalem stone that gives the city its unique character.

“Aviv,” I said cheerily. He looked up from his TV show. “Don’t you want to get dressed and go play in the snow like the other kids?”

Aviv shrugged a shoulder, that classic Israeli kid body language meaning go away.

“The snow is melting, Aviv,” I continued, noting that the sky was a brilliant blue. “It won’t last all day. You should go out now, take advantage of it while you can.”

Aviv continued to stare at the television, barely registering my entreaties. Which led me to wonder: How did I raise such a snowper-pooper?

Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the beauty of snow, I do. It’s very pleasant to look at…from a distance. But up close, it’s just so darn inconvenient. Especially in Jerusalem where everything shuts down. Completely.

In other locations around the world, a little snow means you might have to drive a little slower or put chains on your car tires. In Jerusalem, the city is paralyzed. Schools are closed. Supermarkets don’t receive deliveries. Bus service is canceled. Even the trendy new Waffle Bar in our neighborhood was shut tight. I mean, what more could you want than a hot caramel and whip cream covered waffle on a cold snowy night, but no…

For me, the effect of the snow was more immediate. I had been scheduled to participate in a 3 day seminar this week. I had been looking forward to it for some time, but when the news predicted snow, I began to get anxious. How would I get to the seminar if the roads were closed? If I could, where would I park? And would there be heat in the seminar room if the temperature outside dropped to sub-zero?

The seminar, needless to say, was postponed until the following week.

People don’t expect snow in Jerusalem. With its baking hot summers and close proximity to stunning desert moonscapes, it’s easy to forget the city is perched on the top of a mountain, at an elevation of 2500 feet. The weather can be bitterly cold in winter; this most recent snowstorm dumped 12 cm of the white stuff on the holy city.

My worst snow experience in Israel by far was several years ago. It was during the time I was working in Tel Aviv. I needed to get back home but as I set out from my office, the news was reporting that the main highway to Jerusalem was closed. The only alternative was Highway 443 which runs through the West Bank – it’s a road we tend to avoid at night as there have been a few well publicized terrorist shootings. But it was the only way home.

As I approached the summit near Givat Ze’ev, the snow became thicker and visibility dropped to just a few inches. Cars were skidding off the road (particularly dangerous because that stretch of 443 is essentially on the edge of a cliff). The sides of the road were lined with people who’d gotten out of their non-functional vehicles and were actually walking in the meter high snow drifts, where to I don’t know. There was a bus turned over on its side.

I got on the cell phone with Jody and she talked me through three hours of the most treacherous driving I’ve ever experienced. There were times when other drivers whose vehicles had already skidded into oblivion physically guided my car when I could neither see nor steer. I was so traumatized I didn’t go back to work for the rest of the week.

So if Aviv wants to spend the day vegetating in front of the boob tube rather than joining the snow patrol outside, how could I fault him? He’s only got his father to blame.

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