I let my girls play in the snow today.
I realize that for those of you in much of North America, that sounds pretty boring, but for some of us in Israel, it’s a pretty big deal. Traditionally referred to (several times in the Torah, as a matter of fact) as the “land of milk and honey”, Israel is not generally known for any significant snowfall. Of course, that is not to say that there is no snow here at all – Jerusalem, which is approximately 800 meters (2400 feet) above sea level has been known to see snow – sometimes with decent accumulation, and several other places in high altitudes also experience some of the soft, white stuff. It’s not as much as a lot of the world sees, but it can reach respectable levels.
But I live with my family (my wife and two daughters) in Modi’in, and which is in the Judean lowlands midway between the high altitude of Jerusalem and the low Mediterranean coast of Tel Aviv. Even in the more wintry winters such as this one has been, we get a lot of rain in Modi’in, but for snow we have to either drive half an hour east to Jerusalem, where the snow is not so plentiful and almost guaranteed to be a disgusting grey slush by the time we would get there, or to drive about two hours north to Mount Hermon where the snow falls gently and abundantly and skiers take full advantage of the winter wonderland.
But the girls and I did not drive to the slush of Jerusalem, nor did we undertake the long road trip to Israel’s beautiful north. Rather, we walked ten minutes to the Modi’in mall, and the girls had about 45 minutes of playing in the snow.
One thing that I have seen in Israel in the past few years, although never before in Modi’in, is that municipalities in areas that never receive snow “truck it in” from Mount Hermon in the north and let the kids have a blast – they have snowball fights, hold snow-person competitions, and do whatever else it is that kids tend to do when 100+ kids ages 3-17 are gathered in a space of roughly 15 x15 feet and playing on a three-foot high mound of snow. I’ll let you use your imagination…
So that was our late afternoon activity. With local temperatures at that moment being in upper 50s/low 60s, my girls (ages 10 and 7) bundled themselves in layers of clothes, gloves and the younger one in her heavy jacket, we walked to the mall, and they jumped into the snow.
As my primary function was to keep an eye on my girls and ensure that none of the roughness of the older kids’ play reached them, naturally it took almost a full 30 seconds before I lost sight of where they were. But it was all good – eventually I found them – throwing little snowballs at each other, occasionally coming to throw on me as well, sitting in the snow and sliding down the little mountain, and grinning ear-to-ear the entire time.
The rest of the crowd there was having fun also – some kids were randomly lobbing snowballs away from the mound, hitting whoever happened to be in the wrong (or right?) place at the wrong time. Others brought their snowball fights outside the mound to one another, where there was some collateral damage (I received a few chunks of ice and snow on the back of my neck). There were several people putting some snow in boxes to bring home and enjoy (I’m not sure exactly how) for as long as possible and a snowman competition (one particularly clever entry was a snowman lying down underneath a sun umbrella on a beach towel wearing a bathing suit and getting a tan).
And it was all made possible by the initiative of people to transport snow two hours south to allow the local kids to enjoy what they would normally see only on television and in their dreams.
A beautiful — and very basic tenet in Judaism originated in the Talmud that says “all of Israel is responsible for one another.” Essentially the idea is that the Jews are one big “family” of sorts. Granted, like most families we have more than our share of the crazy aunts and uncles who are invited to the functions but are seated at the special table for the Socially Incompetent. And as a family, no matter what the differences and disagreements we have amongst ourselves, ultimately we each have a responsibility to safeguard the well-being of our family members.
Today our family took care of us – they gave the children of Modi’in a taste of what they very rarely are able to experience. And it was fabulous.