Israeli school children are banking on having a day off from classes and parents are wondering what to do if they did. Bus companies have readied special travel schedules – and are prepared to stop running lines on roads that might become impassable.

Immigrants who wistfully recall childhoods filled with snowball fights, igloos and snow forts, meanwhile, say they are hoping this time it might be “the real thing.”

And municipal officials throughout the country are gearing up for the biggest storm of the season.

Although snow is not that unusual in Israel, Tuesday’s storm is expected to dump more of the white stuff than normal, with some forecasts predicting snowfalls of up to 25 inches in the northern part of the country.

Jerusalem is likely to see up to 10 inches by the end of the storm and even the southern regions could see two inches or so.

I can already see the hot chocolate steaming from my mug.

One forecast has predicted snow in the northern Negev city of Arad, located slightly to the west of the southern tip of the Dead Sea. There is a possibility that the Red Sea resort city of Eilat might even see a few flakes.

Warnings have been posted for near-gale force winds of up to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) in much of the country and even higher along the coastal areas. 

Officials in the capital are especially concerned about the homeless; several people died in the past couple of weeks around the country due to the unusually severe cold weather. Jerusalem welfare officials have said they will house the homeless in hotels if need be.

Jerusalem Municipality Issues Instructions

The Jerusalem municipality is prepared for all possibilities and issued a media alert by midday Monday detailing the elaborate preparations put into place.

“Mayor Uri Lupolianski has ordered municipal teams to keep over 500 kilometers of emergency routes clear to allow emergency and rescue vehicles to move freely when needed,” said the statement, and main roads will be salted as necessary.

Extra staff will be on hand to answer the municipal 106 hotline and the city’s welfare department is “preparing in advance to assist the residents of Jerusalem, especially the elderly and people with special needs,” the statement adds.

Instructions on how to prevent water from freezing and pipes from bursting are included in the alert and a plethora of instructions are added in a list that would make any Jewish mother proud:

• Check the heating systems, especially those which require ventilation

• Make sure roofs and other openings, such as doors and windows are properly sealed and that the drains are open

• Please cut down tree branches in private gardens that are near power cables

• Check the safety of the electrical system

• Have emergency lighting handy

• Fasten antennas, water tanks and other roof-top objects

• Please remove objects that aren’t fastened and might fall from a high place or get blown over, such as flower pots, patio furniture and signs.

• Please avoid staying under pavilions, pergolas, shacks or temporary structures for fear they might collapse

“The public is advised to avoid actions that might endanger them, keep alert and drive safely,” the statement concluded.

Organizations Deploy to Assist the Snow-Bound

While Jerusalem's high school students will be sent on vacation when the expected heavy snows start to accumulate, youth at the Lech Lecha High School on jeeps will be reporting to school for extra hours. Rabbi David Samson, dean of Lech Lecha, is making available his fleet of Land Rover jeeps and students to rescue cars and people from the expected Jerusalem area snow.

The students will arrive equipped with chains and ropes to pull cars, and shovels to clear paths and driveways. In urgent cases, they will transport persons to destinations in the capital. Contact: Yuval 054-567-6723.

The Lech Lecha High School is for youth at risk who have difficulty coping with the convential classroom environment and go on jeep expeditions twice per week to study Tanach [bible], history, and nature, alongside regular studies.

Volunteer organizations are also preparing for the possibility of a major storm. The “Ichud Hatzalah” organization announced Sunday that it would provide transportation under special circumstances. The group plans to prepare special vehicles to convey brides and grooms to their weddings and bring sick and elderly patients to hospitals for inhalation treatments if necessary.

The Yad Sarah medical equipment loan organization has also made contingency plans to assist people who need to reach dialysis or cancer treatment centers. Those who need such help are asked to call *6444.

The organization also said it would be on standby with approximately 25 “Nechonit” vans and other vehicles capable of transporting patients in wheelchairs. Medical equipment loan centers and emergency beeper centers will also function on an emergency basis with extra volunteers.

Immigrants Excited

First-year North American immigrants are growing excited by the hubbub surrounding the impending storm, especially those who were afraid they might never see a real snowstorm again.

“Wow – a real reason to buy boots this year!” said a Chicago native who asked not to be identified. “My kids will finally have a real winter,” he chuckled. His wife ran down the list of culinary preparations dictated by family tradition: “Sahlab --after all, we are in the Middle East – mushroom barley soup, crusty garlic bread toasted in the oven… wish we had a wood stove. Marshmallows!” she said.

“I can already see the hot chocolate steaming from my mug,” said one hopeful tourist from New York. “Will there really be a snowstorm?” asked Brooklyn native Ruthie Woonteiler, eyes glowing with anticipation. “It’s a bonus I never expected. Glad I brought my camera!”