French Israel

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I suppose the biggest news lately, besides the garbage strike, is the snow.

This past Friday was a beautiful day in Jerusalem: bright sun, a few clouds set against blue skies, a perfect cool temperature (cool but not too cool), and a constant refreshing breeze.

I had to go to the yeshiva that morning for a test on the sugiya [sub-chapter] of Gemara that we in my class just concluded. I had resisted it at first, since the commute takes about 45 minutes each way across town, and Friday mornings are usually better spent preparing for Shabbath. But Rabbi Polani, the maggid shiour [teacher of my class] strongly encouraged me to do so. It would be good for the group to finish together, he reasoned, and to feel closure here at the end of the week. Cake and drinks to follow. So I did -- not for the party, but to finish the sugiya en beauté. And he was right; it was worth it. In fact, I got so absorbed in the test that I walked out with the rabbi who gave it to me as soon as we were finished. Completely forgot about the party. By 10:10 I was on my way, taking the bus to go to King George street, where there is a store in the Paamon [Bell] Building that distributes weekly newsletters, Le P'tit Hebdo in French and sometimes Torah Tidbits in English. And then I was back on the bus to come home, listening to the radio for one of my favourite moments of the week, a live Sepharadi music programme on with Moshe Habousha that comes on Radio MiKol HaLév on Friday mornings. I was already significantly more productive on this Friday morning than usual. Life was good.

Traffic on Yaffo was as disorganised as usual,

the Generali building cast a cool shadow under the winter-angle sunlight,

and even the inexplicable quirks in public engineering even looked beautiful.

Shabbath began in the same vein, but then the afternoon's skies became cloudy, the air balmy. Cold mist was followed by cold rain, followed by sleet, but after an hour or so the sound died away. Around 3:00 in the afternoon, in Givat Mordekhai where I was spending the day with the Simone family, we looked out the windows to find the street turning white.

Séudah Shlishit [the Shabbath afternoon meal] was short for the neighbourhood children in the Givah. They got out as soon as possible to play in what is obviously a rare snowfall.

And it didn't let up. The return home, in Bayith VeGan, looked threatened by the shutting down of all public transportation and the unavailability of taxis. My roommate and I set out into the snowfall, which was growing more persistent, and we knew we wouldn't be able to walk all the way up the hill. And just when the sludge on Sha'hal street seemed impossible to conquer, and it seemed that we might have to turn around and spend the night with our host family, a kind 'hiloni [secular] man getting in his SUV offered us a ride.

Despite the snowstorm, I wasn't going to let myself get my hopes up of cancelled classes. Not after my history of several almost-snow days in Athens and Atlanta that should have been the real thing, but were not, leading to severe disappointment (and resentment toward the administration -- there is a story here dying to be told, of a high-school principal falling on her rear end after failing to declaring a snow day when she should have, but I will refrain from such schadenfreude). But I certainly stayed up late enough last night to keep an eye on the weather and the news, hoping for the best. And this morning, when it was clear that public transportation was not running, I finally, confidently declared vacation.

The "after" side of this photo doesn't do the landscape justice; it would have been much more impressive during the blizzard that was going on at 4:00a.m., when I awoke to the sound of strong winds and more hail. By the time I took this photo, much had melted.

Besides getting a few much-needed groceries, I spent a while today morning looking for somewhere to sled. Alas, Sderot Hertsel (Hertzl Highway), whose bus and taxi lane the previous night looked like a prime candidate, was sludge and ice water by the time I got out. The neighbourhood children (and some yeshiva and seminary students) were working on their snow art. Some had the brilliant idea of building an igloo by packing snow into a plastic ice-cream box, and were doing a great job. Whereas others sufficed with snowmen exhibiting appropriate existential angst.

Or perhaps it was an Ashera pole. It was not to last long. Not in this neighbourhood.

As it turns out, Bayith VeGan is usually the first and the last place in Jerusalem to have snow because of its location and elevation, according to some veteran Jerusalemites. So over in yeshiva land, on the northeast side of town, the show went on, despite the fact that many rabbanim were late. My 'havroutha [study partner] kept calling, trying to convince me that I be more shtark [a Yiddish word] and should do my best to come in, taking an expensive taxi, a limo, or whatever it took. By midday a few buses were running, but I had missed most of my classes anyway. It would be back to serious limoud [study] on Monday.

My 'havroutha, like most of the guys there, didn't have to commute far, since they live three minutes away from campus. And they obviously didn't understand the importance of a rare snow day.

PinḼas Ivri 20:23


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