Jerusalem Sorbet

The city in white. The snow holiday is the secular public's Jerusalem Day. It is perhaps the only day in which the lowland people feel as one with their capital on the mountain.

The city in white. The snow holiday is the secular public's Jerusalem Day. It is perhaps the only day in which the lowland people feel as one with their capital on the mountain. When the snow abates and the roads open up (sometimes before that), rows of cars from the lowland travel to the besieged capital (or at least up to the Castel) to see the wonder of snow and observe the snow holiday traditions (building a snowman and throwing snowballs). All on the assumption that the flakes will stick, pile up and hold out.

Is it by chance that many lowlanders love coming to Jerusalem only when it is frozen, paralyzed and covered with a white sheet? Is it possible that this is how Tel Avivians like their Jerusalem? Actually it's not Jerusalem, but Jerusalem sorbet. May be served on a large square platter with dulce de leche and two mint leaves.

A little taste of Europe. The truth is that a large part of the snow pilgrims don't even bother to go all the way to the capital but stop by the wayside. In the big snow fall of 2002, the snow tourism to the Judean mountains snowballed out of proportion. The rows of cars going up to the capital that weekend while it was snowing formed a 50-km-long traffic jam - from the entrance to the city-in-white to the beginning of the Ayalon highway. Haaretz columnist Doron Rosenblum reported from the midst of the jam:

"Never has there been such a massive thronging from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, from the plain to the mountain, in the country's history ... Never was the difference between the 'mountain people' (who were bundled up at home) and the lowlanders (who were stuck in a traffic jam) so blatantly obvious."

Rosenblum tried to solve the mystery of why so many Dan region residents were willing to spend hours in the historical, hysterical traffic clog merely to see snow. His answer: "the yearning to be Europe."

A long week of speculations precedes the snow. Will it snow or won't it? Will it stick or won't it? Will it deepen to five centimeters and disappear or reach 30 centimeters, which is already "real" snow?

These are the greatest snow falls reported by Haaretz's Zafrir Rinat: The greatest snow fall of all times (that is, all the times that were measured) in Jerusalem was apparently in 1920. The residents of Mandatory Jerusalem had a 97 cm-thick snow layer that year. The record of the past years was achieved in the extremely wet winter of 1992 - more than half a meter. That year the record number of snow days was registered at 19. In 1911, it snowed for 11 consecutive days. But reports from 1470 testify to two consecutive weeks of snow.

Blame it on the sea. Why isn't there snow in Tel Aviv? Meteorologist Uri Batz told Saguy Green of Haaretz once that it wasn't the weathermen's fault, but the sea's. The Mediterranean's temperature never drops below 12 degrees, even in extreme circumstances. Only an external cold wave could overcome the relatively warm winds from the sea - something that occurs once every 30 or 40 years. The elders of Tel Aviv remember (or perhaps not) the great snow of February 1950, which piled up to half a meter.

Children's rights. During the snow holiday Jerusalem's children do not go to school. This has nothing to do with whether the schools are open or their ability to get to school. It is simply part of Jerusalem children's rights, like the Jerusalemite Purim, which never ends. In the past the Jerusalem Municipality used to keep the schools open when it snowed lightly at least for children whose parents could not stay home to look after them. In recent years the schools have closed every time it snowed, for fear children might slip and break an arm or a leg.

In 2004 the chairperson of the Jerusalem teachers' organization, Etti Binyamin, criticized Mayor Uri Lupolianski's's decision to cancel school because of an especially light snowfall. Binyamin said that instead of being under the teachers' care, the children were out in the snow breaking arms. Then Education Ministry director-general Ronit Tirosh threatened to deprive municipalities of the authority to decide whether schools stay open when it snowed. The municipality commented: "The children's safety above all."