Better than the Snow Itself, A Happy Reprieve

Snow in Jerusalem is a happy time. It’s no wonder people call it Hag Hasheleg, the Snow Holiday. The sight of Jerusalem’s gold buildings and sad, majestic pines covered in white always moves me, year after year.

Snow in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem, 2004
Snow in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem, 2004

What I love most about snow in Jerusalem though is not the snow itself, but the sense of happiness and normalcy it brings to this embattled city. People of all persuasions ad backgrounds drop their baggage for one (or more) days to build snowmen. People smile at each other more. As preoccupied as we are with perpetual violence and a slew of other existential troubles on a daily basis, the snow allows us to take a break and focus on the weather. We can be normal people for a short while. In a country where the weather generally vacillates between hot and hotter, this is a welcome respite.

I’ll never forget the sight of Gan Sacher, Jerusalem’s central park, during my first snow day in 2004. Jubilant children raced up and down slopes on hastily ripped garbage bags: tobogganing. Haredim and secular Jerusalemites threw snowballs gleefully, our stringent social barriers melting away. Buses of giddy schoolchildren from the center arrived to catch their first-ever glimpse and touch of the magical white stuff.

A previous snow in Gan Sacher, Jerusalem
A previous snow in Gan Sacher, Jerusalem

During my first years in Israel, when suicide bombings were commonplace, I was happy to think that on snow days, no one would blow up a bus. I didn’t have to plan my route to work meticulously and monitor every move of every passenger. There was too much happiness in the air.

I imagined Palestinians in the West Bank enjoying the snow, especially the children, despite their daily difficulties. For them, too, the snow must be a reprieve.

Last year’s mega-storm besieged Jerusalem and other areas of Israel for a week, causing unprecedented difficulty. My thoughts are with the elderly, the homeless and others, who cannot sit at home comfortably and enjoy the white quiet. I sincerely hope this year’s storm will transpire peacefully without any casualties or accidents.

In the meantime, let it snow!

About the Author
Born in Canada and living in Israel since 2003, Melanie Takefman writes about life in Israel, herstory and cross-cultural identity. She is currently working on a book about women and migration.
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