Does it really snow in the Holy Land at Christmas time?
There are many sides to Christmas. The retail trade is all about decorating the shops with fake snow and a cuddly Santa, even if you live in sunny California. The politicians in Bethlehem use the occasion to demonize the coldness of Israel, which is ironic as it is the one country in the Middle East where the Christians have grown in number over past decades.
But for all the imagery, does it really snow in the Holy Land in December? Typically, the freezing weather only arrives in mid January. And there are years that the area around Bethlehem, about a 5 minute drive away from south-east Jerusalem, can turn into a picturesque white postcard.
All that was true until December 12th 2013, when Israel was struck by a ferocious snow storm, which lasted for four days. A few flakes were even reported as far away as Cairo! Jerusalem simply shut down. There were some amazing descriptions of women giving birth in ambulances stuck in the snow. The website ‘The Real Jerusalem Streets’ has some glorious photos of how the capital was decorated in white.
From our home, it appeared as if we had been transported in to a magical TV camera shot. As the attached views demonstrate, we were experiencing a true beginning to a ‘White Christmas’.
And if just about everything in this region leads back to politics, it was fantastic to see Israel’s coordinated response offered to varying Palestinians towns and cities, cut off without resources. There were even photo shots of the Chief of Staff conversing with Palestinians in the snow.
Today, it is the 25th December. The sun is out. The last few mounds of snow are melting away on the hilltops and on side roads. Is it really too much to hope for that the goodwill brought by the snow will not evaporate, but stick around for a while?