JERUSALEM – Snow is an iffy thing here.
A rare occurrence heralded by breathless weather forecasters, it can often end up as nothing more than a nasty mix of wind-driven snowflakes, sleet and rain, leaving the streets awash in slush.
This week there was more snow in the mix, and the Holy City and its shrines were covered for nearly two days in a fleeting blanket of white that quickly melted in the bright Middle Eastern sun.
No matter. The weather event was enough to virtually close down the city, with schools, shops and offices shut, bus service halted and roads empty of traffic.
A walk to a neighborhood post office ended at a locked door.
Someone who answered the phone at a dentist’s office explained that it was just too tricky to venture out on foot or by car, so the doctor wasn’t in.
There were reports on the radio of several people treated for fractures after they slipped and fell on sidewalks, unaccustomed to negotiating the winter mix on the ground.
Many people, it seemed, seized the opportunity to grab a day, or two, off from work, spend some time with the kids and take their minds off the grim news of the day.
With a business week of Sunday through Friday, Israelis don’t get much of a weekend. The snowfall provided the perfect excuse to pursue weekend rituals in midweek.
Unequipped for the weather, some people improvised. An older couple slipped plastic bags on their feet, waterproofing their shoes. Two boys tried to slide down a street on a surfboard.
For Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox mayor, Uri Lupolianski, a less-than-dynamic figure on ordinary days, it was a chance to take center stage. He inspected snow-clearing equipment before television cameras, warned residents over the radio not to drive on the treacherous streets and was host to a snowman-making competition in the city’s main park.
The uncommon sight of the snow-covered city drew visitors from the low-lying Tel Aviv area, who drove up from the Mediterranean coast to the Jerusalem hills to get a taste of winter.