Jerusalem in the snow and how newscasts can effect your state of mind (part 1)

Jerusalem in the snow and how newscasts can effect your state of mind (part 1) 150 150 Sarity Gervais

Recently, due to a family health crisis I flew to Israel, where I had nary a moment to smell the roses. I spent 5 weeks being Florence Nightingale, advocate, seeing eye dog and secretary/therapist, and at night I’d collapse only to start all over again a few hours later.

I stayed at my parent’s home in Tel-Aviv, and my only outings were to the day long bedside vigils at Ichilov hospital, or a trip to the umpteen doctors we had to visit. Sometimes I’d stare longingly out the window at the balmy and sunny mid-winter days, but had little to no time for such reveries.

One day, in early January, we woke up to a vastly different looking Tel-Aviv the sun bouncing off white high rises was gone. The permanently blue sky turned grey, as the gushing wind blew gigantic raindrops to thud on the large window panes. When the rain stopped briefly, I told my mom that I’d run to get some much needed groceries, but she did her usual trick (works every time) which goes like this &ampldquoif you want me to get sick with worry and get high blood pressure&ampmdashthen go&amprdquo. So good girl that I am, I was essentially forbidden to sprint to the Supersol in Kenyon Ramat Aviv, a mere 5 minute walk from the apartment.

I believe my mom thinks I’m about four years old and though perfectly capable of running the affairs of the family, deal with government agencies and doctors with what her friends describe as &ampldquomiraculous results&amprdquo, as far as she is concerned, I’m definitely incapable of taking care of myself, especially not in a rain storm, Heaven Forbid.

My mother, a news aficionado, had the television on everywhere in the large apartment, not wanting to miss a word as she moved from one room to the next.

Meanwhile I planted myself by the kitchen table, drowning in paperwork, organizing her files and making notes about phone calls I must make on her behalf. My earplugs were shoved tightly in, attempting to drown out the noise coming from CNN in the study, Israel’s channel 22 in the kitchen and a British newscast from the bedroom.

Since I don’t share her passion (I keep up on the latest news by reading the headlines in the daily paper but refuse to be subjected to the barrage of negativity, most networks consider newsworthy. The more horrific, the more often it’s repeated, down to the most minute detail.

This is a digression from the subject matter, but has anyone wondered why positive events rarely make it to the news?

One of my fondest wishes is to form a station which will broadcast GOOD NEWS only. Or even if something awful happened,report it briefly, then focus on miraculous acts of courage, people’s coming together in loving support,altruism and magnificently selfless acts to help a stranger (as we witnessed during and after 9/11 for example). And keep repeating those things rather than showing footage of the collapsing towers countless times 24/7.

But back to the story from the corner of my eye I noticed the tv screen, from which direction the sound of children’s laughter came faintly through the earplugs. A brief picture showed kids romping around a big snowman, who was all decked up with a scarf, hat and a carrot nose. The earth was covered in snow, and behind the clearing I easily recognized Har Hazeitim (Mount of Olives), though thickly blanketed in white powder.

This was certainly worthy of a listen, which I did, barely catching the tail-end of the anchor’s comments. Evidently it was snowing in Jerusalem, and they showed pictures of the breaking news: There was a cold front hitting the Middle East, all the way from Europe. They expected a Great Blizzard, which already claimed the life of a teen in a weather related car accident, and there were injuries sustained by two other passengers. Heaps of snow were expected in the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, unusually cold temperatures and heavy rain even in Tel Aviv (below zero all over the country). The weather pattern was to last at least a week and the forecast predicted an Epic snowfall in beautiful Jerusalem, the like of which hasn’t been seen in a great many years. In hindsight, this was typical news hype – create panic, get the public glued to the TV as you make pronouncements with empirical certainty, build up the fear factor, oh what fun!

Turns out the reports were highly exaggerated, since the snow lasted only one day, was hardly Epic, and didn’t come close, neither in volume nor in endurance to the ‘Biblical’ snow blizzards which hit Jerusalem the past two years in a row, piling up to 3.8 feet mounds of the white stuff, seriously disrupting life in a city unused and sorely unprepared for such an event. Thousands of households were left without electricity and heat. Schools were closed and many animals in the Jerusalem zoo died of frost bite. People born after 1992 have never witnessed anything like this in their hometown, and even immigrants used to cold snowy winters, said it was as bad or worse than back in their old country.

The news was grim in 2015: Schools and universities were to remain closed until further notice as were some roads and city streets.

The spokesperson for the zoo announced they had emergency preparedness in place, to protect animals accustomed to warm climates from the minus zero temperatures.

That’s when I made up my mind to steal away for a day to see it all for myself.

I never saw Jerusalem covered in snow, most probably because it was such a rare event and I spent most of my life abroad. I usually come to visit in the spring or fall, unless I get summoned midsummer or midwinter, as I did last summer and this winter. I wasn’t going to miss out on an opportunity to see Jerusalem dolled up in a white fluffy coat. After all, I’m an artist and gilding a lily is curiously tantalizing to me.

A girlfriend of my mom was assigned with taking over for the day and after I promised to dress like an Eskimo and to not talk/be nice to strangers (yes, believe it), I booked an overnight stay in my favorite hotel of the city, the David Citadel. Courtesy of snow-panic-born cancellations and the sweetest front desk person, I got a suite with a huge balcony facing King David’s Tower and the ancient walls of the Old City…All for the price of a single room, minus the view. It was raining Mannah from heaven, mingled with the rain and snow. The Yaffo gate just minutes from the hotel, as was the Kotel and the rest of my ‘must see’ places. Packing in three minutes, I fit all in my backpack, hung my Canon 1300 on my neck and flew out the door.

In all truth, going to Israel w/o at least a visit to Jerusalem would have been bad enough, but to not see the city in the midst of a snow blizzard, it’s beauty highlighted by snow covered rooftopsm was impossible to take.

Also, the city has this truly magical way of energizing me, and since by this time I was wrung out like an old washcloth, I could imagine no better remedy than to absorb some Jerusalem atmosphere.

Before long I was on the bus, a bit wet as the wind turned my umbrella into a sad looking cloth, with broken spikes. We parted ways when it was laid to rest in a garbage can at the Tel Aviv bus depot.

I smiled as I thought of all the memories I have from Jerusalem, and how deeply and eternally some of those events changed me and my path in life.