Israel is not the place I expected to be snowed in. And although the temperatures were not entirely reminiscent of my years in Montreal, where they reached the lowest of the low, -20, -30, even -40, they were cold enough to make me utterly miserable.
The snow started falling on Thursday morning. I received an SMS from my boss informing me that the office will be closed and to enjoy the long weekend. From my perspective, the long weekend was already ruined due to the snow. My boyfriend came back from work early even after being stuck in traffic for three hours. He was also one of the lucky ones as many people were stranded mostly at the entrance to Jerusalem. Some even abandoned their vehicles and either walked or hitched a ride to a temporary shelter and out of the cold.
We had warm soup, doubled our pajama layers and blasted both the wall heater and the one with the spiral beams. My boyfriend went back to sleep for a ridiculous four hours while I read a book. At around 17:00, I got dressed (this took me about 20 minutes considering the extra layers) and took Diamond out for her evening walk.
Diamond happily trotted by my side, every once in a while slipping into a pile of snow. As I zigzagged my way across the unplowed sidewalk, and seeing Diamond getting covered in snow which kept on falling endlessly, I looked up at the sky through the sliver between the hem of my tuque and the thick wool scarf which covered half of my face. I flashed back to the time in Montreal when I would take out my dog, Buxy, during the coldest nights of the year. He hated the snow just as much as I did since his feet were webbed and the snow would accumulate between his toes and turn to ice. He would then proceed to limp the rest of the way back home. That was until we bought him socks, which he also hated.
I remember the Montreal nights being bright since the snow and the clouds reflected back all the street lights and lit up the night as if it was day. One of the things I love about Israel is that most of the year, there are no clouds and there is no snow. None of the lights are reflected and the nights are as dark as it is within the confines of my inner child’s shelter room. The moon and the stars are clearly visible on the background of a pitch black sky. There was no such thing in Canada.
So flashing back to my years in Montreal, while I was still walking the streets of Jerusalem, was surreal. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was just surreal.
When we got home, my boyfriend was just beginning to wake up. I took a steaming hot shower and got back into my double layered PJs, carrying my hotwater bottle around like a teddy bear. Outside my living room window, the snowflakes fell in clumps and completely blurred out the wadi and the parallel street overlooking our backyard. The wind made the night even more dreadful. The electric company employees and technicians were all on overdrive as thousands of citizens were left in the dark, as the cool air seeped into the houses through the poorly insulated walls.
We were of the lucky few who had a short power failure in the early evening hours on Friday, which lasted no more than 10 minutes. But others weren’t so lucky. Some had power failures that lasted up to 24 hours, sometimes longer. It was reported that 30,000 retirement homes were left with no electricity. One can only hope they had gas heaters or at least a few generators to keep the elderly and the bedridden from freezing to death.
We stayed indoors the entire weekend. Going out anywhere was impossible. No plowers passed on our small street. We couldn’t even go grocery shopping and we still have no food at home (luckily, my boyfriend’s parents live right upstairs from us and they had plenty of food). We were forced to keep walking Diamond in piles of snow, wearing about four to five layers of clothes, two layers of socks covered in plastic bags to keep our feet dry in case water seeps into our boots, and it did.
Diamond’s Husky side became more evident as the snow levels grew. She kept begging us to take her out again and again, to play in the snow in the backyard. I was worried to leave her outside on her own. Husky or not, she’s still Israeli and not used to such weather.
Now it’s Sunday. The snow started melting a little last night but most businesses and government offices are still closed. There is no public transportation and taxis are the only ones profiting from that. By some miracle, I managed to make it to work today. I was hoping to finally get one of Hasalatia’s awesome soups, which have eluded me since last week due to bad timing. But of course, they too were closed. I have yet to figure out how to make it back home and how to take out Diamond for a walk through the streets, which have now become all icy and slippery.
Now all my Canadian and North US friends will probably tell me to suck it up – that at least I don’t have to suffer through five months of that white shit, that the temperatures never get lower than -5, that the worst that could ever happen in Israel right now is buckets of rain. Well, no. I won’t suck it up. Israel is a country which is built and organized according to hot weather. There is no insulation because there is no need for it. The plowers can’t plow everywhere, and there aren’t enough of them because there is no need for them most of the time. There is no readily available street salt also because there is no need for it either, and there hasn’t been any need for it for dozens of years. So no, Israel was not ready for a snowpocalypse. Despite my prior flashbacks, this still isn’t Montreal. At least, a city like Montreal is always ready for the absolute worst because it’s bound to happen. So being completely unprepared, snow in Jerusalem is pure hell and I still hate snow with every fiber of my being.
Peace, love and have we paid our dues? Good, now let’s see some sunshine!