Today is our second day of rain in a row, and we’re due for more tomorrow. (Some rumors are circulating that it could even turn to snow, but while snow is sometimes seen outside the Golan Heights, including in Efrat, I’ll believe it when I see it.)
It began yesterday morning. We rose to a typical day of bright, morning sunshine, and got the kids out the door as usual. As I was sitting at my computer and looked out the window, however, I saw the sky quickly turn to gray and the wind pick up. (One thing that is amazing about Israel, and particularly Gush Etzion, is that the weather changes on a dime here.) The sky opened up soon after, and while there were brief respites during the day, the rain came down pretty steadily all day, and most of last night. (I know because I was awake for much of the night.) When my friend Ilana and I traveled to Jerusalem yesterday, the fog was thick on the road, a common occurrence in the Gush since our altitude places us nearly in the clouds during weather like this.
Rain in a desert country like Israel is almost like manna falling from the sky. Israel has had a serious of unusually dry winters, and while this winter was predicted to be wetter than past years, until this week that prediction did not appear to be accurate. Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar called for Israelis to fast and pray for rain (even harder than we do anyway, which is three times a day). But a look at the level of the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) shows that the heavy rains have had an impact on the water level. The Cap’n informs me that the Kinneret used to feed into the Jordan River and make its way ultimately to the Dead Sea, but that this has not been the case for many years, the outflow having been closed off to preserve Israel’s precious chief water supply. (The Dead Sea continues to be fed, much less regularly, by runoff from the desert. We have hiked several of the nachalim, or washes, that lead from the desert highlands to the Dead Sea, but those would be quite deadly in the last few days. The road that runs along the Dead Sea past Masada and Ein Gedi is sometimes washed out in weather like this.)
As beautiful and necessary as the rain is, it also wreaks havoc when it falls in torrents like this. Last time we had heavy rains, several people were killed. Sometimes it is Bedouins in the desert lowlands who get caught by sudden flooding. But sometimes it is thrill-seekers who hear dire warnings to avoid certain areas where flash-flooding occurs, and interpret those warnings as an invitation to see something cool. The Jerusalem Post had an editorial a couple of weeks ago recommending that such people be responsible for paying for their own rescue missions, which are dangerous and costly.
On a rainy day earlier in the year, one of the Crunch girls came home and said it was a mabul outside. Mabul is the word used to describe the rising waters in the story of Noah. But in ulpan we learned that the rivulets of water and flash flooding are actually called a shitafon. (Shin-tet-feh is also the root for “wash,” and expressions that use this root include “scolding,” e.g. shtifah min haminahel and “brainwashing,” i.e. shtifat moach.)
Having grown up in Oregon, I am not bothered by rain. I loved the weather there, and when the rain sometimes turned to snow, it became magical. One New Year’s Eve, when I was home from college for the Christmas holidays, my entire family–parents, adult children, and Irish setter–went sledding down the very long, steep hill near our house.
In Boston, the Crunch family was always equipped with both raingear and snowgear. But now the Crunch girls have nearly outgrown all those boots and slickers. I asked someone what kids are supposed to wear on their feet on the rare snow days in Efrat. My neighbor (a Minnesotan, no less) answered with a smile, “Oh, just rubber-band plastic bags over their shoes. It’s only one or two days a year.”
Today I will spend most of my time in the kitchen preparing food for Shabbat (warming soups, warm tomato and zucchini gratin, warm chocolate dipping sauce for fruit chunks and homemade marshmallows). My kitchen window looks out through a small section of our garden to our car parked on the street outside. One of the things I will enjoy when I look out the window will be seeing that car, like all the other cars around here, get its thick layer of dust and filth washed off. For free.
Come again some other day. And another. And another.