What the Chance of Snow Does to Israelis

Even the mere hint of snow can cause Israel’s entire schedule to change. They are, after all, a desert people.

Snow in Israel is a rarity that can cause everyone to lose their minds.
Photo: Flash90

We do this dance every winter. The news enthusiastically reports on the chance of snow. The children get their hopes up. The temperature does indeed drop to right around freezing. And then there’s no precipitation, and thus no snow.

Israel was smacked by a massive cold wave overnight. And the preceding few days had seen a lot of rain. A lot. So it was quite reasonable to expect snow in and around Jerusalem.

But come Monday morning, no snow.

More frustrating than that to someone like me who grew up in a colder climate is that Jerusalem schools still decided to open late today!


Yes, it’s very cold outside, but there isn’t even a hint of ice or snow on the ground.


A desert people

It’s a frustration that I deal with not only on the few occasions each year when there’s a chance of snow. Even mild rain showers can drastically alter how Israelis behave, especially on the roads.

Years ago, I was vacationing with Israeli friends at a ski resort in Colorado. My friend had spent part of his childhood in Canada, so was accustomed to the snow, and was in fact a far better skier than I. But his children were encountering snow of this magnitude for the first time, and were having a difficult time keeping their footing.

“We are after all a desert people,” my friend shrugged and smiled.

“Desert” might be a relative term. Much of Israel is in the Middle East’s fertile crescent, and under the Jewish state’s sovereignty has again blossomed into something of a paradise. Still, 60 percent of Israel’s territory is desert of a type, and the entire land is a relatively dry and thirsty one.

Most Israelis have indeed reverted to a Middle East mentality when it comes to weather, even if their parents returned here from places wetter and colder.

And for that reason, when we do head in a bit late to school and work today, I’ll be anxious lest a few snowflakes appear in the sky and the entire city of Jerusalem freak out and try to head home all at once.


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