With the strongest snowstorm to hit Israel and the Middle East in modern history, and a concurrent milder winter storm hitting the Eastern U.S., it’s sad to hear of the devastation hitting the area that is ill equipped to deal with inches of snow, let alone days of mounting snow, and tens of thousands without power compounded with freezing temperatures.
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 13, 2013
In addition to the local municipalities and government not being prepared to handle the storm, it seems (from all the social media posts and various news stories) that many Israelis too are ill equipped to act when facing harsh winter weather. Understanding that snow is something most Israelis don’t typically experience with regularity, here’s a quick list of winter weather etiquette tips from a New Yorker (who shovels the snow in front of his house yearly, goes skiing, and had to deal with 19 days sans electricity after Hurricane Sandy):
- Don’t even think about driving – The areas in Israel where it snows: Jerusalem, the Gush, the Golan, Tzfat, they’re all hilly. Driving in snowy conditions on flat terrain is difficult, on hilly terrain is stupid and deadly. Combined with the fact that there are no snow plows (?) and 99% of the vehicles in Israel are not built to handle snow, not to mention that they’re not fitted with tires meant to handle snow, it’d be better for you and everyone’s safety if you just stayed home. (Maybe you’ll stay inside after watching this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_id8QpofVgE)
- Be careful with space heaters – I get it. Living in a stone apartment or house doesn’t warm up quickly. Space heaters are a quick way to heat up your living space, sure, but they’re also deadly. Space heaters can easily cause fires if they’re not set up properly, which is basically to put nothing near them. Make sure it’s entirely out in open space, and not up against apiece of furniture or near clothing. Oh, and it’s probably best that you turn it off before going to sleep.
- Want to play in the snow? Wear layers – Jumping in the snow with your friends or family is definitely fun, so don’t you want to stay warm longer? Wear layers everywhere. 2 socks for sure. Understanding that most Israelis don’t have thermal underwear / long johns, try a pair of pajama pants / sweatpants with denim over it. And a hoodie sweatshirt over whatever you’re wearing under your coat goes a long way at protecting your head and neck.
- Clear your stairs / sidewalk often – Given that many of you won’t have shovels like us in NYC, use whatever you can to remove the accumulating snow, even during the storm. Squeegees, brooms, hockey sticks, whatever you have to create a clear walking path is helpful. The reasons being twofold: 1) It’s easier to remove smaller amounts of snow multiple times than it is a larger heap of snow once. It’ll save your back from future agony. 2) Should the temperature drop after the snowstorm, your stairs and sidewalk could become a sheet of ice.
- Don’t use water to remove anything – This should go without saying, but I read of someone’s neighbor in Jerusalem using water to remove snow from his property or car. Unless you want to create ice sheets over your property (which I highly do not advise), avoid using water at all costs. Not sure what they’re teaching in Israeli schools, but water freezes! Come on!
- UPDATE: Apparently PICKLE JUICE (due to its high concentration of salt) is great for removing snow. ALL Israelis, rich and poor, already have access to pickle juice. This is your secret weapon to defeat the snow on your property.
- Stay on foot and use proper footwear – Typically I’d advise to stay indoors, especially in the hilly slippery streets of Israel’s colder cities, but if you must venture out, be smart about it. Wear boots with soles that grip. Some sneakers will do, depending on their soles. Leave your dress shoes inside. The appropriate footwear can mean the difference between a successful shlep in the snow to the makolet or a slip and fall with a broken wrist or worse.
Ultimately, getting through storms of any kind are tough, but it’s important to use common sense and have patience. Stay safe and warm … and remember to help those who can’t help themselves. Check on your elderly or pregnant neighbors and offer assistance if you can.
[I'm sure there are more winter weather tips for Israelis that I missed. Please comment below with your additions.]