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Friday, February 5, 2010

The Snowstorm That Wasn’t

This was a week of snow hysteria here in Israel.

All day Wednesday, the news and weather forecasts were broadcasting loud and clear – SNOW is on the way. Snow was predicted for the mountains of the Golan, Galil, Shomron, Jerusalem, Yehudah and the Negev from Wednesday night through Thursday afternoon. Here in Efrat they were predicting 6 – 7 inches.

Now I know for a lot of people around the world it is hard to imagine getting excited about a few inches of snow. But since it doesn’t snow that much here, we are not really well equipped for snow removal. When it does snow, the country grinds to a standstill and celebrates as if it were a national holiday.

So this week, the country went on high alert – municipalities lined up bulldozers to serve as snow plows, schools sent out notices about possible school cancellations, shoppers mobbed the supermarkets and gas stations, meetings were re-scheduled and kids of all ages looked forward to their first real “snow day” in years.

And then it started. The temperatures plummeted to just about freezing, the sky turned dark with clouds and it began to… rain. And it rained, and rained and rained. Oh, there were some flurries and some hail and some freezing rain – but the promised snow storm did not materialize, except for in part of the Golan Heights and on Mt. Hermon. (Good news for the skiers). The weather forecasters explained that temperatures remained just a degree or two too warm to produce real snow.

There were a lot of disappointed kids and adults who had to head to work and school on Thursday after all.

Winter weather is big news in Israel – we desperately need the winter rains and snow to replenish our water supply. As a result of the last few years of winter droughts, the mountain and coastal aquifers are dangerously depleted, and the Kineret (Sea of Galilee) which is our main water reservoir, began the winter more 15 feet lower than it should be. Since each foot of water in the Kineret represents about 50 million cubic meters of water, that’s a lot of missing water!

Bu the good news is that it is raining! The Kineret has already risen by about 3 feet this winter, the rivers and streams of the north are flowing into the Kineret, there is snow on the Hermon which will eventually melt into the Kineret - so all in all, we are having a pretty good rain year. Of course we need to have a spectacular rain year to make up our water deficit, but we are off to a good start.

As I sit here in Efrat writing on Friday morning, it is raining again. It is a foggy, rainy day - the community of Neveh Daniel on the next hill keeps disappearing from view in the fog – and the temperature is about 37 degrees. The forecast for Shabbat – tonight and into tomorrow- is for the precipitation to continue and for temperatures to fall below freezing, producing… you guessed it – SNOW. But of course after the snow storm that didn’t happen earlier in the week, noone actually believes the new forecast.

In any event, we are grateful for the rain and hope and pray that it will continue. And who knows - maybe it will snow this time.

Shabbat Shalom