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Jerusalem of White

Jerusalem of White

Gone are Iran, and Gaza, and Syria. All out of sight, out of mind, for one night and one day.


All winter long I've been hoping for snow, as I have every year since 1976, when I made aliyah from Connecticut. Snowy Connecticut, where winter's bounty was unstinting…I'd shiver in Israel's annual bone-chilling rains, yearning for the unearthly sight, preserved forever in my mind's eye, of the black lace of tree branches against an opaque and luminous sky -- the sky a vast, softly overturned cup overhead -- and every tiny black twig rendered suddenly articulate and exquisite. Oh, for the muffled non-noise of a peaceful world gone mute, and staying home from school…the piles of coldness heaping up outside our backdoor. No algebra test today, hurrah!

But this inner vision of loveliness has been mirrored only rarely out in the real world, here in the political heat of the Middle East. Four years, five, six…one winter can follow another without that buried childhood dream ever coming alive.

Jillions of snowflakes, racing, tumbling and somersaulting, in madly chaotic joy.

So this morning I perch in my warm and cozy nest, as a world transformed -- a world turned upside down, where ground could just as well be sky, and sky the white ground -- blows in madly chaotic joy out the kitchen window. Jillions of snowflakes drifting and cruising, rushing on a gust of furious wind, rising, racing, tumbling and somersaulting, shooting sideways and on a running upwards slant, up and down and all around, circling and wheeling, fast as hail or lifted luxuriously on an unseen breeze, in all directions, without direction, the freezing air spinning in a crazy freedom, in a world cut loose from gravity's weight. Egypt is gone, and bloodshed's gone, gone are Iran, and Gaza, and Syria -- all out of sight. Out of mind, for one night and one day.

In America, it would start with sledding and skating, walking in a winter wonderland, but the magic always fell prey eventually to overkill, slaughtered by inconvenience. By season's end, my mother was always sick of the slush and the shoveling, of the stalled cars and my father's missed commuter trains, of the impediment to shopping. For the children, glee was ours, for the two or three cherished snow days, but even we, finally, looked forward to spring.

Here, on a day like this, we have the best of all possible worlds. We have the yearning for snow, the idea in its untarnished purity, and also, on occasion, the thing itself -- both the unadulterated essence, never diluted by overexposure, seldom sullied by the clumsy interference of reality's hand, as well as the physical phenomenon.

In our mind's eye, we can have snow in the Promised Land whenever we wish, without the associated troubles. Here the ideal is real -- it has to be real -- because the ideal is so seldom actualized. Snow -- like Connecticut's blazing autumn leaves, a riot of orange and violet and yellow and crimson, or muggy summer days, with their July and August downpours -- all these remain as intense as they were in childhood, because for the most part they occur in memory alone. Even as I pause from this typing and glance through the windows, what I already see is a curtain of driving rain.

Allah HaAkbar, "God is great," is traditionally exclaimed by an Islamic suicide bomber at the moment of his attack, to seal his martyrdom and acquire for himself sure entry into heaven. The exclamation celebrates the Arab's successful perpetration of what he considers to be his holy mission: the killing of an infidel -- in our case, the Jew who by virtue of living here, by virtue of being alive, evokes in Esav's heart a deep and ancient chord of deadly insecurity.

Somewhere in the Middle East, there may be a young man, hardly out of childhood himself, really, whose plans for the day have been thwarted, as for the rest of us. For purposes such as these, it's the young and fervent idealists whom Hamas and Hizbullah recruit, those who despair of their predicament and hunger for excitement and glory, like young men elsewhere. Can he resist throwing a snowball? He, too, last night and this morning, may have gazed out spellbound at the strange and overwhelmingly new world. He had thought to see heaven today, and there it was.

God is great, it's true, the Creator of all of us: He Who designs snowflakes, and humans who are enchanted by them, and Whose kindness endures forever. He will redeem Israel from her iniquities, as it is written in the Torah, "Come now, let us reason together, says God; if your sins be like scarlet, they can become as white as snow."

This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

February 2, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Anonymous, February 25, 2008 11:12 AM

The first time I also saw snow was in the recent snowfalls of Yerushalyim. It was so beautiful to actually see the holiest city in the world covered in a colour of pure white. This amazing memory will be remebered forever.

(7) Anonymous, February 5, 2008 1:14 PM

First Snowfall

The first time I ever saw snow falling was in Jerusalem. I'm a city girl from California, and I was studying in Israel back in the early 70's. After I verified that, yes that really was snow, I spent the day playing in it! It was peaceful then -- I was there after the Six-Day War and before the Yom Kippur War. I pray that a true, lasting peace will come soon.

(6) Øystein Hansen, February 4, 2008 7:33 AM

Greetings from Norway

Yes,certainly snow can be beautiful and make one dream of peace. Let us prey that tormented Israel can enjoy peace and prosperity also in the real world!

(5) ana mihaila, February 3, 2008 11:16 PM

Deligts me to receive items from you.I am very interesting.

(4) Gavin-Chaim, February 3, 2008 6:08 PM

Snow White

Beautifully written-I just hope everyone was warm in Jerusalem witnessing this splendour

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