December 20, 2013

A Vilde Chaya Storm

Last week I wrote about ‘the storm.’ I wrote this last post on a Friday afternoon sitting in Ra’anana where hailstones were the most dramatic weather activity we saw. The radio and TV turned off as Shabbat came in and we battened down the hatches in preparation for a very rainy and dreary Shabbat. 
Hail Catching: a unique, highly competitive Ra'anana sport.

We snuggled in blankets, read and relaxed. It was actually very restful. The sun even made a brief appearance on Saturday afternoon, giving us enough time to take a long walk.
Ra'anana's version of 'the storm.'

Little did we know that many parts of the country experienced weather of epic proportions that became THE WINTER STORM of the century. Like hurricanes and tornadoes, it was even given the name Alexa, although many native Israelis thought ‘vilde chaya,’ ‘gevalt’ and ‘oy’ would be more appropriate names.
The Golan after 'the storm.'

Snow fell, making many major highways impassable. Thousands of people were stranded on roads, including families with small children who sat for hours in the freezing cold. Many abandoned their cars and had to be saved by the army.

The heavy wet snow then caused tree branches to fall on power lines across the country, plunging thousands of family into cold and darkness over Shabbat.

In Safed, where they received almost two feet of snow, roof caved in from the weight of the snow. Trees fell on cars and on homes. Electricity was out, causing thousands of residents to sit in the cold and dark.

A friend of mine who lives in Tsfat looked out to Meiron. The normally verdant green mountain was cloaked in white. It was beautiful yet eerie as she did not see one light twinkling from the town of Meiron and the surrounding moshavim; everyone sat for days shivering without power. The road to Tsfat was impassable until Monday. And schools in Jerusalem remained closed for a few days after the storm as tow trucks removed countless abandoned cars from highways.

On the plus side, emergency vehicles were ready to help. Families with electricity took in those who were cold and hungry. For a country without proper snowplows and for citizens who do not own shovels or snow tires or snow boots or toboggans, we coped quite well. 

As Jerusalem blogger Mitch Ginsburg aptly wrote, eight inches of snow is, according to a “Middle-East-dog-year calibration, equivalent to, say, 34 inches in Toronto, 21 in NYC and two in Cairo." 
Israelis learn to love snow.

I am sitting writing this blog in Toronto in a warm, centrally heated home, looking out at snow, snow and more snow.  Homes are so well heated here, you could live indoors in a bathing suit and be toasty. In Israel, our poorly heated home is often colder inside than out, forcing me to wear a jacket indoors all day long.

Being in Toronto now, I can see that this city is 100% committed to bad weather.  There is a storm watch channel constantly updating commuters. Everyone has thick boots with treads, Arctic-grade jackets and state-of-the-art snow tires.  So hot, sunny Israel with its date palms and orange groves gets top marks for dabbling in the challenging world of the winter storm.
Wintry Toronto.

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