Mount Hermon gets Passover dusting for first time in 22 years

Ski resort closes to visitors as rare springtime storm hits northern and central Israel, foiling many vacationers’ plans for holiday trips

A springtime snowstorm at the entrance to the Mount Hermon site in northern Israel, April 21, 2019. (Mount Hermon ski resort)
A springtime snowstorm at the entrance to the Mount Hermon site in northern Israel, April 21, 2019. (Mount Hermon ski resort)

Mount Hermon was hit with a freak springtime snowstorm for the first time in 22 years on Sunday, as unseasonable weather around the country dampened many Israelis’ plans to travel and hike during the Jewish festival of Passover.

Some 20 centimeters (eight inches) of snow were measured at Hermon’s lower level around 12 p.m., with the ski resort’s management deciding to close to visitors as snow was expected to continue throughout the day.

Snow was also falling in the nearby village of Majdal Shams and in some locations in the Golan Heights.

Temperatures were colder than average and there were thunderstorms, heavy rains and hail in northern and central Israel. Strong winds uprooted a tree in the city of Kiryat Yam, near Haifa, and it fell on a parked car, without causing injuries.

The Nature and Parks Authority said many outdoor holiday activities planned for Sunday had been canceled due to the weather, including a horse show at the Caesarea Hippodrome that was rescheduled for later in the week.

Most of the Ein Gedi nature reserve near the Dead Sea was closed to hikers, as were many streams in the Judean Hills, amid fears of flash floods. Later this week will be the first anniversary of the Tzafit River disaster, in which ten teenagers were killed in a similar flash flood.

The rare winter spell is expected to peter out toward the end of the day, with some local rains still expected on Monday morning.

The rest of the week, however, is expected to be sunny around the country and may even reach heatwave-level warmth, with temperatures steadily climbing to 23°C (73°F) in Jerusalem, 26°C (78°F), and 29°C (85°F) in Tiberias by Wednesday, according to the Israel Meteorological Service.

Youth swimming in a quiet part of the Sa’ar river, Golan Heights, April 14, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are expected to take to the outdoors this week during the holiday, with many likely to head north to enjoy the scenery after a rainier than average winter left its rivers, lake, and waterfalls booming.

Last month, authorities said the level of the Sea of Galilee had risen above the lower red line for the first time in two years.

Heavy rainfall over the past few months means Israel has broken a five-year drought that plagued the north, but the country’s water woes are not  over. During the summer, the Sea of Galilee evaporates at a rate of a centimeter per day, meaning it will again dip below the lower red line.

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