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.
About two weeks ago, to shamelessly aid in promoting my goodStories site, I began posting a photo each day to my goodStories Instagram gallery, photos I am taking and have taken in Israel. I simultaneously share these on Facebook and Twitter. The above shot was met with a nice response (It’s also one of my favorites.), including several questions.
The photo was taken from an Old City vantage, near the southernmost corner of the Western Walloverlooking the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. (Compare to the inset photo above, taken farther from the wall, credit http://www.yourway.co.il ) The history of the rainbow shot is simple. On a wet, dark day, the clouds opened briefly, a spectacular rainbow appeared over the Mount of Olives and I happened to be carrying a camera. This post briefly discusses the Mount of Olives and the Jewish cemetery at its base and includes a few additional original photos of the area which may or not eventually make it to my Instagram feed.
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.
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.
It took two days after approximately 20 inches of snow fell on Jerusalem for the buses to begin running and most stores to open. Cabs braved the ice and snow from the start. The following 4-minute video highlights the typical calm Israeli demeanor brought to bear during the day-after thaw.
Jerusalem was hit yesterday with what is being called a “100 -year event ” snowstorm. The video was taken as it began; the photos at the end of the following day, during the “thaw.” Temperatures dipped below freezing, the wind blew something fierce and yes, it’s been cold.
US President Barak Obama visited Israel for fifty hours in March, 2013. What did he do? What did he say? What did it mean?
Like most people, I have no idea. But I am certain it’s safe to say that during the president’s short, profoundly expensive and ambiguous visit, Jerusalem’s routine–perhaps most of Israel’s–was radically transformed. Israeli President Peres’s residence at HaNassi and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s home on Balfour Street are both in Rechavia where Marcia and I live. The King David Hotel, where Obama stayed, is about a fifteen minute walk away. So, lacking an insightful analysis of what happened during Obama’s two-day charm offensive, I can at least offer, along with links and several personal opinions, lots of photos showing how things looked on the street.
It wasn’t a Greek wedding but my first experience voting in an Israeli national election this January was, I’ll say, “unique.”
The polls were set to open in Jerusalem at 7:00 AM. This turned out to be a suggestion. In our neighborhood the barriers were moved aside at 7:40. The delay allowed those who arrived on time to shake their fists and shout thank yous to the soldiers and election officials who blocked their way. I do not understand why everyone seemed so upset. Maybe they objected to the armed soldiers keeping order at the polls?
This was understandable, but should little Israel hope to emulate the American standard of voter security enjoyed in, say, urban Philadelphia?
Advanced election technology was also missing; Israelis use “ballots.” We were deprived of voting machines, chads and modern counting software. I doubt many Americans can imagine the uncomfortable feeling associated with placing an ordinary piece of paper in an envelope then putting it into a plain blue box while an election supervisor looks on. Virtually anybody could have counted my vote or recounted it, if need be, with absolutely no mystery regarding its authenticity.
The Israeli government is a parliamentary democracy. Voters do not vote for individuals but cast single votes for a political party by selecting a Post-It-sized slip from a tray filled with papers marked with Hebrew characters representing the parties. The Knesset (legislature) membership is then established by party-list proportional representation.
After the election a period of haggling and negotiating among the elected parties (quaintly called, “forming the government”) becomes the stuff of headlines and nightly news, rivaling, while it lasts, the nation’s enthusiasm for bad driving and the odd kind of football.
Two other likely differences between elections in American and Israeli are first, the absence of the existential question, “Will we survive?” in the American version and, secondly, the relatively few holocaust survivors one might find beside them in the states while standing in line to vote. Continue reading “My Big Fat Israeli Election”