JERUSALEM — This city and the West Bank have come to a virtual standstill thanks to a major snowfall, the most severe winter weather system the region has seen in 25 years. Schools, universities, government buildings and most businesses are shut.
There’s been an accumulation of a good 7 inches of snow, enough of an event for Ha'aretz to live-blog.
Jerusalemites have reacted mostly with wonder and joy. Barehanded children are building snowmen and people holding steaming cups of coffee are smiling with unusual approachability on the snow-covered streets. In East Jerusalem, vendors of sahlab, the orchid powder and hot-milk beverage that’s considered a winter must, stood by steaming kettles under improvised awnings.
In the Old City, underequipped locals covered their soaked shoes with supermarket plastic bags. Alleyways were completely and almost unrecognizably empty, a ghostly shuttered casbah. South American tourists gazed around stupefied.
Some worshipers outside the Dome of the Rock, with its now white-capped golden dome, built a replica of an artillery rocket. At Damsacus Gate, I witnessed a fairly vicious gang of Palestinian youths hurling snowballs at passersby.
They pelted a young ultra-Orthodox boy, maybe 13 years old, with real violence, hitting him so hard he fell and lost his hat. Then they set on him, smashing him with snow, then with their fists. He eventually managed to get away. There were no police or border patrol officers to be seen.
Jerusalem streets were mostly empty of cars all morning and residents took to walking along streets that had been swept overnight rather than on the snow-covered sidewalks.
One foreign resident, Chilean Felipe Alee, said the experience reminded him of Yom Kippur, when silence falls on the city and people walk in the middle of the streets.