Random Observations

The new world we live in is weird. Starting with the weather.


Traffic has been light in general, but it’s started to pick up as more places open. I rode a bus twice this week. I was on a double-length bus and there were only 6 passengers on it during “rush hour.” The next day I was on a regular bus during “rush hour” and was a little surprised to see 12 passengers. Passengers are not allowed to enter the bus through the front door or to sit in the seats near the driver.

Kids were back at school, but a  teacher tested positive for COVID-19, so they isolated the teachers and the kids and closed that school for two weeks.

An Israeli moment: A religious girl, probably about 10 years old and dressed in a school uniform of a long skirt and a long-sleeve button-down shirt, was in charge of getting her two younger sisters (twins, I think) to school by bus. The older one was wearing a mask and the younger ones, probably about 5 or 6, weren’t masked. It’s not uncommon for older siblings, even at this age, to be in charge of their younger siblings. But now it involves being responsible enough to properly wear a mask in public at such a young age.

I’d been hearing Shabbat services in the park for the past few Fridays. Now that synagogues are open again, I found that I missed hearing the singing yesterday.

Most mornings on my way to the office, I saw a group of men wearing prayer shawls walking home after holding morning services on a street corner. I’ve kind of missed seeing them lately as well.

People are out and about. They are lax about wearing masks over both their mouths and noses – the underside of people’s chins seem to be overly protected by masks though.

Friday was Jerusalem Day. Usually there’s a parade and a lot of celebrations. I heard nothing. I saw nothing. It was barely a blip this year for me.

Next week, restaurants will open for seated customers (take-away was always available), and we’ll have to see how things go. Will new cases spike or has the virus played itself out for now? Based on the virus genome structure, they found that 70% of Israel’s cases came from the US and the virus was spread by a small number people. Weirdly, that means it wasn’t from ordinary tourists, but people who come to Israel and have a lot of interaction with Israeli citizens. What does that mean for tourism (a huge industry for Jerusalem)? It’s anyone’s guess.

The strangeness of the new normal will eventually fade, and the new normal will just be normal. We’ll all wonder how we ever got along without a supply of surgical masks and disposable gloves at home. I mean, you’ve been using alcohol-based hand sanitizer for ages already, right?

Flash flood

Lots of stuff happened in the world this week, but the top story in Israel was the loss of 10 young people (9 girls and a boy) who were swept away in a flash flood in the Judean Desert.

When I read the names and locations, it seemed that they were from all over Israel – places I’d heard of, places I hadn’t heard of. It’s always hard to wrap your head around the idea that all the kids belong to everyone, but this is a case where I think it’s entirely true. All of these kids touched people in their communities and were together on a bonding trip before their pre-army academy.

The nation has responded for “our children.” The kids drowned on Wednesday and by Friday, the head of the academy and a teacher were arrested.

Flash floods are serious in Israel. The rain falls hard and fast in Jerusalem. A short time later all the water is gushing down wadis and into the Dead Sea.


On Wednesday afternoon, I hopped on a bus to get home and within 30 seconds, the skies opened up and the rain started pounding. A few minutes later it was hailing.

By the time we got to Emek Refaim (it’s a valley and a water tends to back up), traffic slowed down because people weren’t sure if their cars could get through the puddles. All of us on the bus were, for the moment, enjoying the scene. We were dry and we didn’t have to drive.

My street is just slightly above the valley, so armed with the umbrella I knew to bring with me in the morning, I thought I’d get home relatively dryish. Nope.

The lower part of the street had water coming up past the rims on cars’ hubcaps. I got off the bus here and had to fight rain and ford puddles like they were rivers. I was WET.


The source of the river was right here. I was getting too wet, so I put my camera away and just did my best to get home. The rest of the night was spent counting the seconds between the lightning and thunder.


These pictures were taken after 20-30 minutes of torrential rain in the city. Multiply this water, funnel it into a narrow canyon, and send it speeding down the mountain. And that’s a flash flood.

And for those 10 that were lost this week, may their memories be a blessing to all who knew them.

Winter in Jerusalem

Fuzzy slippers

blankets, fleece, socks

snuggly kitty

another winter in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is located on the same latitude as San Diego.  You expect mild winters and hot summers.  So when you move here from northern climates – snow every winter, ice on the roads, negative wind chill factors – you expect to have easy winters.  And yet, if you ask around, Jerusalem winters are the coldest anyone has ever experienced.

I also think Jerusalem winters are the coldest I’ve ever experienced, even though I’m writing this sitting on my porch with the sun warming my face and with only a light fleece as a jacket.  I’m writing outside because it’s actually warmer outside than inside right now.  Winter in Jerusalem is strange and as we enjoy the daytime mild weather, we maintain that Jerusalem is the coldest place we’ve ever lived.  Here are a few of the theories.

  1. Elevation

No.  Jerusalem is only 800 meters (2,600 feet) above sea level and many of us have been to higher elevations.  Even if the wind feels like it’s blowing off of a glacier, there are no nearby glaciers.

  1. It’s the desert

Possible.  It is a known fact that deserts during the day are hot and freezing at night.  However, the actual temperature is not freezing and yet we complain more bitterly of the cold here.


  1. Housing materials

Maybe.  Homes are made of poured concrete with no insulation.  Floors are covered with tile.  Their coldness is lovely during a hot summer and like living in an igloo in the winter.  To slightly counteract the ice cold tile issue, some homes have installed heating elements under the tiles so that heat is radiating from the floor.

  1. No fireplaces

I just miss a nice roaring fire.  I’ve often thought it might be nice to build a fire in the middle of my living room, but that would only be a temporary solution to an ongoing problem.

  1. Mysterious cold zones

I have walked in Jerusalem and suddenly felt an enormous chill in the air.  I have never found any explanation for this.  If you didn’t believe in ghosts before, these chilling zones might make you rethink it.

  1. It’s cultural cold

This is my theory.  In cold climates, you have the right clothes and you go from your warm home with insulation and wall-to-wall carpeting to your warm car to your warm office.  You are not feeling the cold in the same way that the cold surrounds you here.  Here you wake up in your chilly house (unless you can afford to run the electric heater all night), you put your feet on the ice cold tile when you get out of bed (slippers and area rugs minimize the chill), your hot water heater has only a certain amount of hot water (as uninsulated hot water heaters are generally on the roof to maximize solar energy), and the clothes you put on are somehow never warm enough.  As you walk to the office, it’s not so bad unless it’s raining or the wind is blowing.  The office is probably warm though, because it’s a business.  When you get home, sometimes you hang around outside until the heater warms up the space because the inside of your house feels like a walk-in freezer.

Then, once every few years it snows in Jerusalem and you forget about all your complaints because it’s just so pretty and reminds you of your childhood.  (Photos from February 2015)