Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Snow in Jerusalem

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Snow in Jerusalem

Article excerpt

Snow in Jerusalem

Dear Friends,

I imagine that many of you have already seen pictures in these last few days of Jerusalem under a cover of snow. The newscasters reported that it was one of the largest snowfalls in the century. Of course, the fact that the century is only four weeks old may have something to do with that claim.

But, whether it was one of the largest snowfalls of this or the last century, it was spectacular. Over 40 cm fell in much of the city and the surrounding area. (For those who don't find the metric system user-friendly, that translates into about 16 inches, not a lot by some standards but a huge amount for us.)

Snow -- in a place where it falls so rarely -- is truly a treat. In Jerusalem, the snowfall seemed almost magical for it created an opportunity for folks from every possible background to play together, for them to meet one another as human beings. No politics, no agenda, no power plays. For just a moment, snow brought the Reign of God closer to this place, as many became more childlike, more open, more trusting. Let me share a few examples.

In the early afternoon as the clouds began to break, I walked from my home to Mar Elias Monastery to take pictures. As I was treading up the snow-covered road, an Egged Service Bus went by, working to clear the road. As I moved to the side to let it pass, the Israeli driver stopped and asked if I needed a ride into Jerusalem. His job wasn't to pick up passengers. In fact, his type of bus isn't for transporting folks. But he stopped to ask if he could be of assistance. I thanked him and told him I was only going to the top of the hill to take pictures. He smiled, said, "Enjoy!" and drove off. As he reached the top of the hill, I saw him pause again, offering a ride to a Palestinian man who was also walking. The young man jumped in and rode off.

Later I walked into Bethlehem to visit friends. As I passed one Muslim store-keeper, who was building a snowman in front of his store, he said, "Isn't this wonderful? It is a gift of God. Thank God! Thank God!" We talked a few minutes about how this snow would help our severe water crisis. He kept telling me this was an answer to prayer. As I left, he told me to remember to thank God for this gift.

A bit further on I came to `Aza Refugee Camp. Here, a small toddler, about 18 months old, made his way to me, holding a snowball in his hand. He seemed to understand that he was supposed to do something with the snowball, but he just didn't seem to know quite what. So, I stooped down to say hello and motioned to him to throw it at me. Instead, he walked all the way up to me, handed me his snowball, smiled and backed away. …

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