December is my favourite time of year. Chanukah is a great family holiday and the weather is cool. In Jerusalem, where I live, evenings can be downright cold. Stone-tiled floors, laid with our summers in mind, make for extra indoor heating challenges.
Between much needed rainy periods, the warm sunny days are splendid. I don’t know why, but when it finally comes down, it doesn’t just rain here, it literally pours, the torrents cleansing our streets of the grime that accumulates during a half year or more with no precipitation.
And nature, being nature, takes its path. Rain and sunshine set a metamorphosis in motion. Dry, dull and yellowing, end of summer flora is supplanted by revitalizing green vegetation.
We’re told by weather forecasters – a non-prophet livelihood if there ever was one – that precipitation this winter will be just above average. Till now, central and southern regions of the country have received rainfall above average for this time of year, but the north, with the Sea of Galilee and other important reservoirs still to be filled, is well below the standard, although we have till mid-March to catch up, and those prophets say we might.
You must be thinking: “Why is he writing about this when so many security related dramas and tragedies are taking place where he lives? Daily stabbings, shootings, pedestrians run over by terrorists. Doesn’t he have something better, more important to write about?”
That’s just the point. We Israelis are a resilient people. No, there’s no remarkably good news yet. Peace is not upon us. The terrorism we’re experiencing will continue. Not enough tourists; businesses still suffering. The rift between right and left continues to broaden and expand.
And while I’m not certain it’s something we can pride ourselves on, or rather another force of nature, human nature, once again we seem to be bouncing back. Just a bit. I feel it in my own surroundings. Kids, including my 15-year-old, taking buses again. People sequestering themselves less in their homes. On the fifth night of Chanukah, I joined hundreds at a wonderfully hopeful candle-lighting ceremony at Jerusalem’s First Railway Station complex. Each candle lit by Jews together with Arabs, Christians and Muslims. Men and women. Young people and adults. Music. East meeting West.
During my workout the other day on the Haas Promenade overlooking the Old City from the south, I was delighted to see large groups of tourists. Two, in particular. Christian visitors from Nigeria colourfully decked out. Another from Indonesia. Women covered in hijabs. Men donning traditional head coverings. Muslims. Having their photos taken with an incredible backdrop. Can you believe it? Nearly 30,000 Indonesians – yes 30,000 – visited Israel in each of the past few years, and we don’t even have official relations with that most populated of Muslim nations.
And with all the talk of boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Israel, it’s refreshing to see it’s not really working. At least not yet. On Dec. 11, FIBA, the international basketball federation, announced that Israel will be one of four venues to host the 2017 EuroBasket championships, and earlier this month, Netanya hosted the 2015 European Short Course Swimming Championships, where we won three medals – two silvers and a bronze. Look for swimmers Yakov Toumarkin and Gal Nevo at the Rio Olympics next summer, along with our world class judokas and windsurfers.
Back to winter. For as long as I can remember, Israelis have been following daily reports of rainfall levels, anticipating drier days and ominous water shortages. No more. With Israel’s desalination capabilities soon to reach 70 per cent of our domestic consumption needs, dependence on rainwater has greatly declined.
Witnessing these water concerns recede, we can now more easily enjoy the cleansing, transformative effects rain has on our surroundings.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find a similar elixir to purify us of our even more existential woes? Despite this season’s vitality, I’m afraid neither man nor metaphysical will comes up with that potion any time soon.