No Such Thing As Snow Shovels (in Jerusalem)

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Snow Shovel
03 Jan 2007

Kids are learning the facts of life at a much earlier age these days. I know this because my little guy lost his first tooth a few months ago. When I suggested that he slip it under his pillow and sleep on it, he looked at me like I was way, way behind the times.

“Preposterous,” he said in his most blasé tone of voice. “There’s no such thing as a tooth fairy.”

This left me stunned on two counts. First, I didn’t know the truth about the tooth fairy until I was at least eight or nine, and second, there were no four-syllable words in my vocabulary until my last few years in high school. But when I told my little man that there are no such things as snow shovels in Jerusalem, either…well, it was as if I’d just debunked the greatest myth of all times.

“There is everything in Jerusalem,” he announced with supreme confidence. “Of course there are snow shovels in Jerusalem.”

But no, there really aren’t and this discovery all came about because of a recent snowstorm in the holy city. A snowstorm in Jerusalem, by definition, means anytime those flurries hit the ground without melting. The weather status is upgraded to ‘blizzard’ if there’s an accumulation over half an inch, and we had about two inches.

In twenty-five years of going back and forth between the U.S. and Israel, I have never actually seen snow in Jerusalem. I’ve heard about it and seen pictures of it, but it’s really quite an experience to see it with your own eyes. And you would think that a couple of inches of snow wouldn’t faze a Chicagoan like me. We can get up to six or eight inches in the Windy City before anyone really notices.

But in Jerusalem, snow is a major event that paralyzes the city for several reasons. The biggest reason being because people just want to stand around staring at it…the other reason being because no one knows what to do with it! No one can figure out how to get it out of the way. “Spon-ja” (Israel’s super-sized version of the squeegee) doesn’t work very well on the snow and as I said before, there really is no such thing as a snow shovel in Jerusalem.

There’s also no such thing as ice scrapers or Calcium Chloride. The city’s municipal workers rush to the Super-Sol and grab big blue boxes of kosher salt for deicing streets like Herzl (I am not exaggerating). Schools close, the taxis stop running, stores shut down and restaurants stop serving food. Please don’t ask me to explain why restaurants (that are still open) stop serving, but the Israelis all seem to understand it, because they point out the window and say,

“Sheleg al ha-aretz!”

As if it’s clearly obvious and why are you so dense?

Once the snow cleared up, I went over to Kinyon Malcha for some supplies. You can find absolutely anything in Kinyon Malcha (but not a snow shovel). And the stores there are very diversified. Yes, yes, I know it looks like a shoe store, but they’ve also got a two-for-one sale going on batteries, clothespins, and toilet bowl cleaner!

Ah, Jerusalem. It’s the home of falafel sandwiches, the place of sufganiyot. It’s the safeguard of synagogues and churches, the dwelling of mosques and shrines. It’s the city of peace and holiness, and some say it’s the city of G-d Himself. But there is no such thing as snow shovels in Jerusalem. And although Israel is a country that’s on the cutting edge of all kinds of technology, you’ll just have to sit back and relax.

Sheleg al ha-aretz, you must learn to enjoy…the snow!

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.