With slushy, graying banks of snow still blocking sidewalks, driveways and parking spots in Jerusalem, there’s been talk among forecasters about another gale in the coming weeks — cause for some consternation among weather-weary locals.
“They still haven’t plowed our street, and we can barely walk from our apartment to the street,” said one resident of Ramot, a northern Jerusalem neighborhood that received more snow than some of the lower-lying neighborhoods.
Lacking a fleet of snowplows, as well as shovels, sand and salt, the city has seen its side streets and sidewalks remain impenetrable for days, primarily due to the icy slush that developed and debris from multiple fallen trees and branches.
Schools remained closed through Monday and opened late on Tuesday and Wednesday in order to allow for the ice to melt in the warm morning sun, while some pre-schools didn’t open at all until Wednesday or Thursday because of water damage.
Parents made their way to local elementary schools, digging rudimentary paths and clearing entrances, and at least one school asked parents to send coarse salt with their kids, looking to “test the theory that salt may help with the ice,” said one parent.
There were some who tried to clear the ice by spraying it with fire extinguishers, and lacking shovels, residents used brooms, squeegee mops and dust pans to clear outdoor stairs and cars.
Israelis have no idea how to handle this much snow, said councilmember Rachel Azaria.
“Usually it snows in Jerusalem for a few hours, we go out to play and then it melts,” she said. “And that’s every one or two years. We don’t know about shoveling the snow before it turns to ice.”
Azaria’s Yerushalmim party posted regular updates to her Facebook page throughout the storm, updating parents about school openings and whether Egged bus lines were functioning. Now, said Azaria, the party is organizing grassroots meetings to gather information about how various neighborhoods functioned during the weather emergency and what can be done in the future. Once gathered, she’ll present the findings to City Hall.
“It’s one thing to decide to buy snowplows, and another to tell people to shovel outside their houses,” she said. “Israelis don’t know about this because they’ve never done it. They know how to volunteer or knock on the door of an elderly neighbor to check on them. But they have to learn how to deal with snow.”
In Jerusalem, where thousands lost electricity and water and remained dug in for days, the focus, said Azaria, is on how to handle the winter weather that was so unusual for these Mediterranean climes.
“I think all the volunteers did a great job,” she said. “But it’s not going to help if we have 200 shovels on one side of the city and we have to get them to the other side of the city. We have to have a plan.”
Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz reported that while the city is considering and researching different kinds of preparedness for future storms, there are no decisions being made at the moment.
“We learned a lot from this experience, and it wasn’t simple,” said Berkowitz. “Clearly, we have a limited ability to deal with this amount of snow.”
All the concern about future snowstorms may be for naught. Boaz Dayan, founder of IsraelWeather.co.il, claimed there is no forecast for snow in the next few weeks, pointing instead toward warming temperatures through December 23. But the possibility of more snow is still a hot topic, and Jerusalemites are concerned.
“It was a very rare occurrence,” said Berkowitz. “Every resident has to think about what they’d be willing to give up so that those four days would have been easier. Of course we could do it better, and I have a lot of thoughts about that. But given that we’re a city where this doesn’t usually happen, it’s a big question whether we should invest millions in snow equipment.”