by: Ilse Posselt, Correspondent, BFP News Room
It began in the evening. A snowstorm in Jerusalem was getting underway. As the first flakes fell, streets in the usually bustling capital were deserted. Jerusalemites were waiting inside, not out. As rain and slush turned into snow, excited cries were heard, as calls of sheleg (snow) fell from windows and balconies, joining heavy flakes just before exploding on the ground.
Snow is not a frequent visitor in this part of the world. On the rare occasions when it comes to town, young and old welcome it with wonder. Schools close. Stores and restaurants are shut tight. Businesses and offices send employees home a little early as Jerusalem prepares for this infrequent visitor.
It arrived before dawn. The city awoke to a blanket of white, nearly 25 centimeters [9.8 in.] deep, according to Israeli media. Because of the accumulation, police closed the main roads leading to and from Jerusalem. Except for a few crucial lines to the train station, public transport was also suspended. Jerusalem Municipal Authority requested residents to refrain from using the roads until snow could be cleared from the streets. Assurances were given that 200 snowplows, mechanical diggers and salt trucks stood ready for the task.
With its streets quiet and empty of cars, Jerusalemites came out to play. Bundled up in a mishmash of bright scarves, mittens and jackets, residents braved the cold to experience their city decked in white. Rapidly melting snowmen dotted the sidewalks. Youngsters aimed snowballs at unsuspecting passersby. The mood was jubilant, festive. It was a snow day in Jerusalem. Young and old embraced its rarity and beauty with enthusiastic wonder.
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