Safed Gets Some Snow, but Where’s the Promised Storm?

This time the northern city is prepared, but neighborhoods at lower elevations were looking decidedly non-white.

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Snowing in Safed, northern Israel, January 7, 2014.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Safed Mayor Ilan Shohat’s Facebook post on Tuesday afternoon left no room for doubt: The city was preparing for a repeat of last year’s massive snowstorm.

“From 10 P.M. tonight the roads to and from Safed will be closed, to prevent cars from getting stuck and our having to extract them,” the mayor wrote. “Please find the safest, most comfortable place and be prepared to stay there for a long time without power — at least three days!!!”

Ten centimeters of snow covered the city’s relatively high-altitude neighborhoods by 8 A.M. Wednesday, but the areas at lower elevations remained defiantly un-snowy. Snowplows and security forces were posted everywhere in town, but the stormy weather, and the rest of the promised snow, failed to arrive.

The Ohanas’ house was filled with noise and merriment. Uriel, 14, and his siblings Shilat, 16, and Yuval, 19, were home, along with their cousins Meir, 15, and Tzofia, 13, and Yochai, a 15-year-old friend. They watched TV while parents Shoshi and Yisrael cooked in the kitchen.

Shoshi said she doesn’t usually have so much time to cook because she’s at work during the day, but the snow day gave her more time to prepare food.

“They came from the south to be here in the snow,” Shilat said about her cousins. By “the south” she means Safed’s southern neighborhoods, where snow had not piled up. The teens reminisced about last year’s storm, the pita they made on the fire when the power went out, how they sat in the dark with cars stuck on the road everywhere.

“Last year you couldn’t see the wall of the house,” Yisrael said. But this year it’s very different, both because it doesn’t feel as cold and because the city is ready for a white January.

“This year they prepared properly,” said Shoshi, commending the mayor.

The phone rang. It was grandma, who lives in another neighborhood in the city. Her power was out. As Yuval told her that dad was heading over with some food, grandma reported that her electricity was back, and warned that he better not forget the oil.

The teens weren’t interested in going outside, saying they had played in the snow earlier. “It’s not the greatest fun, snow,” said Shilat. “You can’t leave the house.”

South of there, on Safed’s pedestrian mall near the artists’ quarter, there’s no snow on the sidewalk, but almost no people either. All the stores are closed except one food stall and the Café Bar Adler kiosk, where everyone who braved the weather gathers.

“We opened last year too,” the vendor said. “It’s becoming a tradition.”

Asher, a regular customer, said the media’s hysteria kept everyone at home. “They made everyone panic,” he said.

Nissim, a veteran Safed sculptor, entered the café and asked, “Is it Shabbat today? Everything’s closed.”

He said he went out to buy long johns because he was cold, but the shops were closed. Everyone laughed.

Nobody seemed particularly upset about not being able to get to the store, and everyone praised the municipality’s preparedness. A restaurant owner who came in to buy candy said she wasn’t sorry she hadn’t opened her restaurant.

“It’s a great excuse for me to sleep late and do artwork,” she said.

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