It’s officially winter in Israel.
We recited “Tefilat Hageshem” (the annual prayer for rain) on Simchat Torah, and have rain on the brain during our personal supplications. We’ve started turning the air conditioning off at night. The ants have begun marching indoors to get out of the impending rain. And every woman you meet is obsessing about when she can break out her “hooker boots.”
True, it doesn’t look like winter just yet. It’s still beach weather for some (count me in), and a serious storm has not been sighted anywhere in the country. But the heavy rain will come soon enough (please, G-d), and we will go through the annual celebratory motions.
Children will dance in the streets for hours, joyfully splashing in puddles of “first rain.” Grown men will high-five each other triumphantly, and women will cheer as they walk through the raindrops without coats, umbrellas or a care in the world. Every conversation will begin and end with mentions of the “blessed rain.”
While the public merriment will last for quite some time, it will start to dissipate as the days grow colder and less accommodating to the wearers of short sleeves. Still, throughout the season, friends and co-workers will be seen gazing out the window at the looming storm clouds and smiling from ear to ear. Even as we shiver at the bus stop and struggle with our poorly made umbrellas, the rain will bring us joy.
Indeed, precipitation takes on a whole new meaning in Israel. Every drop is miraculous, and the atmosphere that surrounds the arrival of each new storm is simply magical.
But if the inclement weather fogs up your rose-colored glasses and you can’t seem to find the blessings in a sodden sweatshirt, I beg of you, dear reader, to keep it to yourself. Not for me but for you.
Because if you dis the downpour, the Israeli Rain Mafia will find you.
Lieutenants of this aggressive gang reside across the country and in our own backyards. They are our friends, neighbors, clients and social media contacts. Some are even members of our own families. And although they come from backgrounds so varied that they agree on little else, they are united in the belief that the rain, so sensitive and sweet, will retreat if it feels even a little bit unloved or unwanted.
Sure, they appear harmless when they share rainfall statistics via social media platforms or delve deep into the blessings brought forth through rain during a hearty handshake at Friday night services.
But there’s a darker side.
Last year, a friend of mine was suffering from a serious case of winter blues. The bitter cold (by Israeli standards) and unrelenting rain were starting to get her down, and she expressed these feelings on Facebook. The moment I saw her post, I knew she was in trouble.
I wish I could have warned her. I wish I could have stopped them.
Within seconds, the Israeli Rain Mafia had her pinned against her Facebook wall. They pelted her with religious and nationalistic barbs, and hit her over the head repeatedly with economic and agricultural figures. They pressured her to recant and apologize. Broken, she had no choice but to concede.
Though her wounds had healed by the spring, I could see that the experience had changed her. She no longer feels safe expressing her opinions. She never discusses the weather. She fears the precipitation police.
While not every rain enthusiast is a blessing bully, the strength and reach of the Mafia’s network would surprise you.
It is for this reason that I urge you to heed my warning this winter.
You may catch a cold or arrive late to work. Your yard may flood and your ceiling might leak. You could even slip and fall.
But whatever you do, don’t blame it on the rain.
It’s better to be safe, and soggy.