By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
The rare occurrence of snow in Israel, including Jerusalem, after days of heavy rain that has even hit the Negev is a hot item here, not only among meteorologists but among pundits in unrelated fields. The weather and its impact has been the main news story on all the radio and television channels; forecasters have usurped the place normally reserved for seasoned political commentators.
But that doesn’t mean that the weather isn’t a political issue. As everything here has political implications, there’ve been speculations about the impact of the weather on the outcome of the elections on January 22. Comparisons to Hurricane Sandy’s effect on the US elections last November are being made. Even though a little snow in Israel, despite collateral damage and very unfortunate accidents, cannot be likened to the devastation that Americans suffered, Israelis tend not to miss opportunities to make more of anything than there actually is, especially when it related to the United States.
Though by Election Day Israel should have returned to normal weather conditions, something may nevertheless have changed as a result. For example, as the country is, literally, awash with water after rains not seen here for a couple of decades, and in view of the threatened added cost of utilities for which the Opposition parties have blamed the Prime Minister, he’s reported to have said that it may be possible to lower the water rates now. Is this a sign of genuine concern or an election ploy?
Obviously it’s the former. It shows that he really cares for the welfare of the citizens. So would they, please, do what’s in their and the country’s best interest and vote for him instead of the others whose platforms point to irresponsible economic policies and/or hazardous handling of foreign affairs.
As always in Israel, religion hasn’t been left out of the debate. Yes, I did seem to understand a secular political scientist telling a journalist that both Sandy in America and snow in Israel may have cosmic significance: Heaven interfering in the elections. And a well-known mystic in Israel has assured us that the arrival of snow in the land of our ancestors constitutes compelling evidence that Israel’s sins are being forgiven, because the connection between whiteness and forgiveness can be traced back to Scripture.
If you compare winter weather in countries like Canada, the little episode here isn’t worth even mentioning, butIsraelisn’t prepared for such variations, however brief. That’s why houses have been flooded causing untold damage; poor people who live in exposed places have suffered greatly; roads have been made impassable; the damage to property, particularly cars but also crops, has been substantial.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that not only are children pleased because school has been cancelled, but the country as a whole has reason to rejoice because the water table has been well replenished and the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s major fresh water source, has risen dramatically. The drought that so often constitutes a threat here has been averted not only for this year bur probably for several years to come.
As for us, we’re happily confined to comfortable quarters at home watching some of the snow from our windows and much more on TV. And we remind ourselves that what brings us to Israel every winter isn’t to escape the Toronto weather but to share in the joys and tribulations of Jerusalem.