Laura Ben-David
Sharing Israel with the world through my lens
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Let it snow…

This Saturday's forecast: A blizzard with a high chance of hot cocoa

When we made aliyah ten years ago, we carefully considered a number of important factors in choosing a community. After much research, we ultimately chose the Gush Etzion town of Neve Daniel because it satisfied our most important concerns:

    •    Excellent education
    •    Proximity to Jerusalem (i.e. potential employment)
    •    Available housing
    •    Stunning views
    •    Best potential for snow.

Alright, maybe the last two weren’t most important, but they are definitely perks!

Happily, the stunning views are a year-round occurrence, only occasionally marred by Neve Daniel’s famous fog. The potential for snow, however, has been more potential and less actual these last few years. And, let’s face it, “potential snow” just doesn’t quite cut it.

Most non-Neve Daniel Israelis mock my snow obsession, deeming any actuality of snow in Israel to be some short-lived flurries at most. But my neighbors know the truth. At 997 meters above sea level, around 200 meters higher than the average in Jerusalem, if snow is coming to our neck of the woods we’re going to have the most and it will last the longest. Furthermore, with the steep climb in and out of (and around) Neve Daniel, and minimal-to-no snow-removal equipment, if we get hit by a big one we’re not going anywhere for a while.

What does this mean in plain English? If there’s snow in Jerusalem, it will likely be cleared, roads will be opened, and people will go to school and work. But people in Neve Daniel? They will be stuck at home with nothing to do but go sledding, make snowmen, have snowball fights, and go home to drink hot cocoa, all exhausted from a hard day’s work.

Here are a couple of highlights from snowstorms that hit since our aliyah in 2002:

Our first winter, a massive snowstorm that brought about a foot and a half of snow to our town came on suddenly, mid-day. Not that we weren’t expecting it, but you can’t keep the kids home for snow you “expect.” Especially not in Israel when half of our storms fizzle due to temperatures being just one or two degrees too warm. That day, all the kids were in school and it started snowing fast and furiously. They immediately closed school and arranged buses to get the kids home. All was fine except that the Neve Daniel hill was already impassable! Every child was dropped off at the bottom of that steep, windy hill to make their own way home. It wasn’t an easy hike, but it was a one-way trip, and they got to stay at their destination for three days as we were “trapped” in our winter wonderland.

The last winter storm we had was in 2008. Never one to complain about being stuck home in the snow, this time was different. I had been hired as a makeup artist for a bride for that very day! The job was in nearby Efrat, but the roads were as treacherous that day as they had been when the bus dropped off all those kids down the hill. Luckily a friend had rented a sturdy 4WD vehicle and he came out to pick me up, then ventured out again to bring me home.

On the return trip he turned on the windshield wipers to dislodge a pile of snow. Uh, kids, don’t try this at home. It’s a bad plan. The wipers busted and suddenly a wet snow was coming down fast and furiously. With no choice we rolled the windows down, and as my friend drove we were both leaning out the window being “manual” windshield wipers. Yes, my friend is so talented that he could do this while driving. We figured that the mounds of snow on the side of the road were like “bumpers” and there were no other cars on the road anyway…

So this reminiscence brings me to today. Every Israeli forecaster is predicting snow in places that are 700 meters above sea level and higher. True, the temperatures are expected to be right around or even a drop above freezing. But we’ve got about 48 hours of nearly continuous snow predictions.

Hey, if it doesn’t snow at 2 pm, it’ll snow at 4 pm. But I’m getting my snow this week. Just you watch. You aren’t in Neve Daniel? Don’t worry; I’ll have a cup of hot cocoa in your honor – and I’ll post lots of pictures…

[Jan 6, 2013 – In looking at the latest weather predictions for this week, I realized that this post is as true and relevant as when it was first posted, only days after the founding of Times of Israel. Let’s hope that this time we really get some of the white stuff! Stay tuned…]

About the Author
Laura Ben-David is a photographer, public speaker and Israel advocate. Inspired by her Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and never stopped. She is the author of the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has spoken all over the world about Israel, Aliyah and other topics, often with beautiful photographic presentations. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B'Nefesh, Laura is the director of marketing at Shavei Israel as well as a marketing consultant.