Jerusalem Schools Reopen After Snow; Safed Counts Blessings

Seven years after Safed almost collapsed during the Second Lebanon War, the feeling was that the municipality performed reasonably well, aided by the army.

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Most schools in Jerusalem were in business Tuesday, bringing back some normality after last week’s snowstorm that blanketed the capital with a foot of snow. In Safed in the Galilee, which got close to 20 inches, schools couldn’t reopen, but city leaders marveled that so few people had been hurt.

Many Safed schools have been damaged, while pergolas and sheds in school courtyards have collapsed amid fallen trees. The Academic College in Safed has also not yet reopened; the authorities decided that letting hundreds of students into the city with their cars would only worsen traffic.

“We’re returning to routine under very nonroutine circumstances,” said Safed Mayor Ilan Shohat. “It’s hard to see the city in this state. It looks like after a tsunami.”

Schools in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion are scheduled to reopen Wednesday, with primary schools opening at 10 A.M. and secondary schools at 10:30 A.M.

Schools and preschools in Jerusalem only opened after the principals, parent committees and the Jerusalem Education Authority determined that the facilities hadn’t suffered damage and that access was safe. A list of schools to reopen was posted on the municipality’s website, which promptly crashed due to the high traffic. The Hebrew University remained closed.

There was also confusion regarding which ultra-Orthodox schools in the capital would open after the Haredi Education Administration was late in publishing its list.

The sun melted most of the ice that had formed on Jerusalem’s roads overnight, but iced-over snow remained elsewhere. Unshoveled sidewalks remained treacherous, and many small streets remained impassable either because of snow or fallen trees. Municipal workers started removing trees and branches that were obstructing sidewalks.

On Tuesday morning the entrances to the city were jammed with traffic, as were streets near schools. While buses to and from the city began running early in the morning, there was only partial service.

The huge neighborhood of Gilo in southern Jerusalem remained cut off from public transportation, and other routes were truncated because buses couldn’t get through the streets. The light rail resumed service on its entire route; for two days it had stopped at the Central Bus Station.

Meanwhile, hundreds of families in settlements in the northern West Bank, and in Ein Rafa, a village near Jerusalem, were still without power.

In Safed, most of the electricity problems were resolved and most of the main roads were cleared, though traffic was very slow and the downtown was jammed. Businesses, including most supermarkets, were slowly reopening, though customers had trouble getting there because of the crowds, snow and ice. A pregnant woman fell and broke her arm, but hospital tests showed no risk to the baby.

In any case, seven and a half years after the city almost collapsed during the Second Lebanon War, the feeling was that the municipality performed reasonably well, aided by the Israel Defense Forces and other agencies, not to mention many volunteers. Six days after the storm began, officials expressed relief that so few people had been hurt.

“The city is facing a long and complex period of rehabilitation,” said Shohat. “Damages are estimated in the tens of millions of shekels. Roads, sidewalks and traffic circles were damaged during the snow removal, support walls collapsed, the landscaping and watering systems were destroyed, and many streetlights were damaged.”

In the Druze village of Beit Jann, which had been totally isolated for several days, residents were trying to get back to routine. The chairman of the local council, Bian Kablan, said the biggest challenge was clearing the snow from the narrow streets.

Family plows their car out of snow in Safed, Dec 15, 2013Credit: Gil Eliyahu

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