It was a magical day in a handful of cities and towns around Israel Thursday, as several days of rain finally gave way to some real snow, at least in the Golan Heights and much of the Galilee, down in Jerusalem and the hills beyond it and into the Negev Desert city of Dimona.
Locals were hunkering down for a possible four-day weekend, settling themselves in for a winter solstice that doesn’t usually make its way to the Middle East.
And so, the top five weather-related activities and factoids, relevant right now:
1) When the rain began turning to hail and sleet Wednesday morning, the first signs of snow began with graupel, soft snow pellets that form, according to Wikipedia, “when supercooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on a falling snowflake, forming a 2-5 mm (0.079–0.197 in) ball of rime.” Why is the word graupel even being tossed around? Because Jerusalemites have been fiercely focused on the weather websites for the last 48 hours, hoping the endless downpour would turn into white stuff. And then graupel began falling on Wednesday afternoon, and it is, in fact, small white pellets that are closer to snow than sleet, and actually do well when packed into a snowball. One last thought on graupel: According to Merriam-Webster, it’s Germanic in origin, and is the shortened version of Graupe, which means pearl barley.
2) Speaking of pearl barley, it’s fairly imperative to get a pot of soup up and cooking, ready to warm you up whether you’re coming in out of the rain or the snow. I’m a fan of mushroom barley soup, particularly this one from Mark Bittman of The New York Times. But my Times of Israel colleague, Mitch Ginsburg, told me he makes this Alton Brown French onion soup when snow falls or when the weather gets very cold. He likes the fact that it uses apple juice instead of the more traditional sherry, and that splash of Cognac makes all the difference.
3) Once the snow is down and falling, it’s vital to get out and play in it as soon as possible, particularly since it may melt and turn slushy within a matter of hours. There are the obvious choices, such as a backyard, street or sidewalk, since there are few cars out and the snow is still fairly pristine. But for some serious sledding, there a few options in Jerusalem: The hills in the Valley of the Cross, near the Nayot neighborhood, offer excellent sliding possibilities, as do certain paths in the Rose Garden near the Knesset, the slopes in Bloomfield Garden (between the King David Hotel, west of Yemin Moshe), and a short but slidable slope at the southern end of Liberty Bell Park, just past the basketball courts.
4) Everyone’s coming in from the snow, wet and cold and needing some warm comfort. (Or cold comfort, in which case you can make snow ice cream.) Hot drinks are called for. So, a few options: For those want the traditional snowy day beverage of hot chocolate, go the traditional route. Make a paste of one tablespoon of cocoa powder and one tablespoon of sugar in two tablespoons of cream or milk (or soymilk, for the lactose intolerant among us). Then heat up a cup of milk (soy, or regular), and mix the paste in for a creamy, deeply chocolate-tasting cuppa. The non-hot chocolate lovers in our house have been drinking a homemade version of chai, made with a chamomile-honey-vanilla tea, steeped with honey, a cinnamon stick (or a sprinkle of cinnamon), and a dollop of milk. And for those moments when something even more warming is needed, add a splash of whiskey or Cognac. It works.
5) The snow will start melting, and for those in the center of the country, the incessant rain may be making you crazy. If you’re in need of distraction, choose from the following list: do a puzzle, make snowflakes, pop flavored popcorn, stretch out those cold limbs with some easy yoga, make an indoor snowperson, play cards, clean out the sock drawer, go to Mahhane Yehuda (it’s open), have a dance party, read a book out loud. And when all else fails, relax. Life will return to normal by Sunday.