A personal recollection of the worst September dust storm in Israel’s modern history…
The worst September dust storm in Israel’s modern history—the worst to strike Israel at any time in the last fifteen years—hit Jerusalem early on the morning of September 8th, 2015, the result of “sandstorms raging in the Syrian desert.” The storm lasted an unprecedented four days and began less than a week after Marcia and I had returned to Jerusalem after spending a month in the States.
The consecutive daily high temperatures in Jerusalem during the 4-day event were 93, 97, 95, and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Our apartment has no air conditioning. The walls of our 77-year-old building are composed of cut stone and poured concrete and are 18 inches thick. These, combined with our high ceilings and Jerusalem’s 3,000 foot elevation above sea level normally make hot weather bearable, if not comfortable, so long as the outside air temperature remains at or below 90 degrees. It also helps to be able to open the windows though that was not a viable option during the storm. We had no warning the night before the storm hit so we innocently closed shop the evening before with our shutters and windows partly open.
When was the last time you were accosted by four teenage boys brandishing…Rubik’s Cubes?
My wife, Marcia, and I are now traveling in the US. When people here learn that we live in Israel they often ask how we manage to cope with “all the violence and unrest.” They seem surprised, if not stunned (or skeptical), when we answer that our neighborhood in Jerusalem is a safe and enjoyable place. Remember the following scene from the 1990 comedy, The Freshman…?
Like Matthew Broderick’s Rodolfo Lasparri’s take on Palermo, an informed judgment on Israel would surely benefit from a visit. Though the country has its share of problems it’s not the place one would imagine from having watched only network news. Following are five vignettes from personal experience that might help refine one’s impression of the Middle East’s only democracy.
It’s been about two months since the once wild Jerusalem dog (whom Marcia has named, Juttah) appeared half-dead in our backyard desperately seeking food.
It is only natural, then, given the immense interest stirred up by my first blog account of Juttah’s uncertain welfare, found here, that the sure-to-follow sequel would blossom into a video epic. The epic never materialized, however, ordained or not, but we did manage to upload a short video detailing our new, healthier dog’s progress and prospects to date…
[Note: My apologies. This is the “real” post and the other has been deleted. The first notice went out when someone accidentally clicked the “Publish” button well before the post was readable.]
Marcia and Miriam, our landlady, have befriended a wild dog. In fairness, the animal they’ve taken to would now be better characterized as loud, untrusting and mischievous since Marcia gave her a name, Miriam made the once small hole in the back fence bigger for ease of entry and both ladies have begun to buy her treats and food.
Jutta, that’s what Marcia named her for reasons that may never be known, was only days ago just one of many starving, unloved Jerusalem animals, most of them cats, exceptional only in her ability to avoid being seen. But the poor dog began to break our hearts last month as hunger prompted her to take more risks and she began to visit here regularly (with her tail tucked and barely able to walk) looking for something to eat. Though she only appeared at odd intervals and mostly after dark, her comings and goings eventually betrayed a pattern. She came and left the same way each time; in and out through either of two small holes in Miriam’s fence then across the back of the neighboring yard and off to who knows where through another fence-hole somewhere.
One morning, about 2:30 AM, Jutta woke the whole building with an awful, life-changing howl. Miriam got on her knees the next day and unrepaired the back yard fence to make the hole bigger. She built a small hutch to protect the food that she and Marcia agreed to leave for her, though only cat food that first day.
Marcia began to deliver proper dog food twice daily afterward, big portions, and though we never saw her eating, Jutta ate it all. So things seemed to be looking up for her until a second big winter snowstorm hit Jerusalem.
As of the end of March, Marcia and I have lived in Israel for three full years. Hearing of our anniversary, a friend from the US said, “So I suppose you two speak fluent Hebrew by now.”
No. We don’t.
And I’ll bet our friend, just because he has lived in the United States all his life, hasn’t memorized the Federal Tax Code. Oh, we can ride the buses in Jerusalem with careless familiarity; we can read two-thirds of most public signs (which are typically printed in Hebrew, English and Arabic) and we have thoroughly mastered the phrases I don’t know, Excuse me and I don’t understand.
But occasionally successful living requires more than being able to ask for ice, knowing how to find the public toilets or wishing someone well.
With the blizzard of 2013 in the rear-view, during a little burst of spring like weather in January, I shot video from Jerusalem’s Old City, Jaffa Gate to David Square, the Armenian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, Western Wall (and back again). Set to a full orchestral rendering of the Blue Danube.