There’s a ritual involved in preparing for snow in Jerusalem. It starts about a week before the weather event, when the forecaster says, “And next week, there’s a chance of snow in the Golan and in the central mountains.” From that point on, you begin to pray. You join a huge minyan made up of thousands of schoolchildren hoping for a chance to frolic in the magical powder that they have never seen. The intervening days are among the most devotion-filled days of the year.
As the day approaches, you become a weather maven. You follow the Israel Meteorological Service, Jerusalem Weather Forecasts, and the tongue-in-cheek predictions and quaint translations of Boaz of Yerushamayim. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a political scientist friend who is a weather geek who shares reliable forecasts privately on Facebook (can’t link to those – they’re secret!). You follow weather maps and charts, analyzing satellite photos that trace the course of the storm through the neighboring countries and anticipate the arrival of the storm. You learn the word “graupel” (“corn snow” or “snow pellets”) — and learn to dread it.
While you are waiting, you become an expert on the elevation of the different neighborhoods in Jerusalem. You learn that where you live is only 700 meters high, while up the hill is 800; sadly, that 100 meters could be the difference between slush and snow. You monitor predictions of how many centimeters will fall (always exaggerated) and are shocked when you find yourself thinking that 10 centimeters (just under 4 inches) is a lot of snow.
When the big day finally arrives, you watch in disbelief as schools dismiss, shops shutter, and workplaces empty, hours before the storm. Sometimes, it is at the very first flake; other times, it’s when the skies are still blue. You begin to grumble. That too is part of the ritual. Where’s the snow? Why did they say it was coming at 3:00 p.m., and it’s not here yet? Where is the snow???
When the snow finally begins to fall, you marvel at the hush that descends on the city, and are amazed that flakes can flit and fly and drop from the sky and land without making a sound. You remember the snows of your childhood in lands far away, or of vacations in Europe where, perhaps, snow is underappreciated. Quick, before it melts – it’s time to make friends in Jerusalem! To do so, follow our secret family recipe.
How to Make Friends in the Snow in Jerusalem
- 1 mountain (preferably with a paved road going down it)
- 1 sled
- Have the presence of mind to bring a sled in your lift when you come on aliyah or return from a relocation. A sled is a rare commodity on the local scene, and you never know when you might need one.
- Learn the Hebrew word for sled. (It’s a “mizchelet.”)
- Take a partner and your sled and trudge up to the top of a mountain. (Ein Tsurim Boulevard in Talpiot-Arnona is particularly recommended.) Ignore the fact that you are old enough to be grandparents.
- Slide down the mountain on your sled. Squeal and scream because it’s going too fast. When you can’t steer properly, crash into a snow bank and get dumped into the snow. You are sure to get noticed that way.
- Climb back up to the top of the mountain. Smile at people passing by, especially families with children who are carrying big plastic bags or plastic tubs that are impersonating sleds. Enjoy the fact that you were smart enough to bring a sled in your lift.
- Give your partner a turn to slide down the hill.
- Pause for a minute to shout at a boy who throws a snowball at you. Put on your best Israeli accent and chastise: “Yeled, lo zorkim al mi shelo mekirim” (Don’t throw snowballs at people you don’t know!) Remind yourself that people who don’t know snow don’t know snow etiquette. Enjoy the delusion that you have educated him that he won’t do it again.
- Worry that the snow is beginning to melt. Or that graupel is coming.
- Offer the passersby a turn on your sled. You will suddenly have a lot of new friends. They may include:
– An Australian dad and his fearless daughter and less intrepid son.
– A young, married religious couple who go down the hill together.
– A Hebrew-speaking family in which Mom goes first, Dad goes next with one kid, and the second child says, “Maybe next year.”
– Two Haredi brothers – the only strangers forward enough to ask for a turn, rather than be surprised by your offer.
– Two young girls bundled in pink, only too happy to abandon their plastic bags for the promise of something better.
- If any of your actual friends pass by, offer them turns as well. You may be surprised to discover how adventurous some of your middle-aged contemporaries are.
- When there are no more takers and the snow is beginning to turn to slush (generally a rapid transition), trudge off in the direction of home. You will have left the world a slightly happier place.
- Sometime in the future, you’re likely to pass some of your newfound sledding friends. You probably won’t remember where you know them from. A little boy may pull on his mother’s skirt and say “Ima, that’s the lady who let us use her sled in the snow.” You’ll smile at these familiar strangers.
- The next time it snows (maybe next year – nah, who are we kidding?), repeat the above. There’s nothing like sledding with people you don’t know in Jerusalem!