Big snowflakes fell in Jerusalem on Friday morning, blanketing the holy city in white -- for at least a few hours -- for the first time in four years.
The snow then turned to rain, sleet, and hail for the fourth straight day. And more cold and stormy weather is predicted for the Holy Land this weekend.
Temperatures in Jerusalem, perched up in the Judean hills, are expected to drop to freezing -- unusual in this sunny, southern Mediterranean climate. Winds have exceeded 65 miles an hour in some parts of the country over the past few days. Flights arriving at Ben-Gurion airport were delayed Thursday; trees were uprooted in the coastal city of Tel Aviv; flooding was expected in the south of the country.
You’d think the world was coming to an end or something.
This has been some of the worst winter Israel has had in its history (I know that‘s only 64 years, but still). More rain fell on Israel in January than any January on record -- 29 out of 31 days. And February wasn’t a lot better. And this is March?
That’s just not normal here. Israel is a place known for its sunshine --- 300 days a year, the brochures tell you -- not this persistent, insistent rain, sleet, wind and storms.
Which brings me back to that end of the world thing.
There’s seems to be a few people out there who believe the end of the world is actually coming in 2012, although there‘s discussion on exactly when that might be this year. Those same people say that weather is going to play a big role in it all.
Hail and snow feature high on the type of weather that apocalyptic believers say is likely to come with any end of our age. Floods and storms ravaging the land also play big roles in the eschatology.
As does Israel.
None of this makes me feel that great if I think about it on a stormy weekend holed up at home here in the Holy Land.
I console myself with the fact that when it’s not raining here, the sun comes out with a vengeance. And the sky is a bright postcard blue.
Which is good. Makes people feel better about things here, studies have shown.
“Can you imagine how depressing this place would be without this amazing weather,?“ said an American Jewish woman I met soon after I arrived on a glorious warm day in late fall.
“The only thing you can’t complain about here is the weather,“ said a Palestinian bookshop owner from Arab East Jerusalem on that same day.
They were talking about the Palestinian-Israeli problem though. I’m just talking about the weather.