Sunday, December 15, 2013

Israel paralyzed

The whole country of Israel was paralyzed over the weekend due to the worst snowstorm in 60 years. In Jerusalem ca. 40-50 cm of snow fell, bringing the capital to a standstill. All roads in and out of the city were closed after people left their cars in snowdrifts blocking the routes. Israel Railways obtained permission from the Chief Rabbi to run trains on Shabbat for emergency services. Snow fell in many locations from the Golan, thru Tsvat (Safed), Efrat (100 cm), Bethlehem and into the Negev. The coast had record rainfall and low temperatures.

It is not only that Israel is not used to dealing with snow, but this level of snowfall was unpredicted, and the snow fell consecutively over two days, Fri and Sat. Emergency crews were out sanding and salting the main roads in Jerusalem overnight, but this had little effect. Although Sunday is predicted to be without snowfall, nevertheless the worst consequences of the snowfall are expected to be felt today. About 100 people who were stranded in Jerusalem, due to cars breaking down and buses not running, were put up overnight in the Jerusalem Convention Center (Binyanei Ha'ooma). In addition, freezing temperatures have left a layer of ice making roads very dangerous, especially those in the mountainous regions around Jerusalem. Also, the weight of snow and ice has caused many electircal cables to break, leading to danger of electrocution. Over 10,000 homes were left without electricity and heat overnight although this number has been reduced today to about 30,000. The number of deaths attributed to the storm is four.

Certainly Jerusalem looks very pretty in the snow. US secty of State Kerry, who was stranded for a short time in Jerusalem on a brief visit, admired the scenery before taking off for Asia. He had further talks with PM Netanyahu and Pres. Abbas in Ramallah and stated that the negotiations were not frozen like the weather. However, people were warned not to try to dirve to Jerusalem to see the scenery covered in white as it is far too dangerous. The emergency services are now removing about 50-100 cars blocking the main roads in and around Jerusalem in order to open up traffic. Route 1, the main road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is currently open only to public transport and private cars are not allowed. Israel has great computer and cyber capability, but until now cannot cope with the white stuff.


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