By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Motti Kirshenbaum, the co-host of a popular daily television news hour, suggested on Thursday evening that Jerusalemites were preparing for the snow storm – it came late that day and continued through the night and on Friday – the way our ancestors prepared for the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 567 BCE.
People were buying up groceries as if the storm would last for weeks. Public events were postponed or cancelled. One of the two congregations to which we belong in Jerusalem informed its members that Shabbat services wouldn’t be held this week. Our newspaper delivered the Friday supplements a day earlier on the assumption that we wouldn’t get any paper on Friday. We didn’t.
Schools and kindergartens were cancelled, allegedly to the delight of the children but not to the delight of parents who may have had to go to work, unless the snow would prevent them too. The university has also closed.
And it’s not only in Jerusalem. The mountains in the North are inaccessible; places like Haifa and Safed are affected. There’s even a little snow and much flooding in the South. The only good news is that the water in Sea of Galilee, the countries major reservoir, is rising and there’ll be plenty of snow in the ski resort on Mt. Hermon.
Most roads in and out of Jerusalem are closed. A friend who flew in to Israel on Thursday evening and normally stays in Jerusalem is stuck in Tel Aviv over Shabbat. There’s virtually no public transport in Jerusalem. As my son reminded me, we’ve become prisoners of Zion of sorts, albeit temporarily.
I was among those who had hoped that the weather would give us a respite from the election campaign, which is becoming more and more nasty and ridiculous. But the prime minister managed to get on television with the mayor of Jerusalem and the chief of police to assure us that everything is taken care of. He didn’t say that Isaac Herzog, his major opponent, wouldn’t be able to deliver, but if the thought occurred to you while you were watching Netanyahu, so be it.
It’s a pity that the snow storm hasn’t come a week or so later. It might have provided a face saver for Netanyahu not to go to Washington to give that speech to which he’s by now heavily committed and to which many in the Jewish community in America as well as the majority of Israelis, according to a recent poll, are very much opposed.
Despite the prime minister’s and the mayor’s assurances that everything is under control, at least as far as the snow is concerned, together with other old people we’re staying indoors. It’s the slippery roads that constitute the real hazard. This will be a home Shabbat. We even made sure that there would be hallot before the storm might prevent us from getting them.
You’d have to be very insensitive to ignore the fact that as comfortable as we may be here, the weather punishes poor people who live in temporary housing or worse, not least in Gaza, Syria and countless other places in the region.
The siege in 567BCE resulted in the destruction of the Temple and exile that changed the course of Jewish history. We hope this siege is more temporary, less lethal and, if your gas and/or electricity work , the experience may be quite pleasant for most of those who normally live in comfort.